How Minnesota fits into the national campaign

Obama Holds Final Primary Night Event In St. Paul
Some observers predict the presidential candidates won't spend much time in Minnesota between now and Election Day, because it's not a first-tier swing state.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Democratic and Republican strategists are now working their political playbooks for the campaign.

Republicans will work to convince undecided voters that Barack Obama doesn't have the experience to lead the country in times of crisis. The Democrats will work to link John McCain as continuation of the Bush administration.

Members of a group known as Change to Win promoted the McCain/Bush link during a morning rally in St. Paul.

John McCain
Sen. John McCain campaigned in Minnesota in July, holding a town hall meeting in downtown St. Paul.
MPR Photo/Bill Alkofer

"Do you feel the same way? Did you agree with President Bush 95 percent of the time in 2007? Did you agree with him 100 percent of the time in 2008? No!"

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The rally was meant to generate attention from the news media covering the Republican National Convention.

But their message is directed at the members of the labor unions. Change to Win is funded by several labor unions, and is spending millions on campaign organizing this year in Minnesota and 12 other battleground states.

That means more campaign literature will be mailed, a greater number of phone calls will be made and more people will knock on doors to convince their members that Democrat Barack Obama is the better choice for president.

Bernie Hesse with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union said labor groups started organizing earlier than ever this year.

"We always had this bad habit of what I call the panic campaign, where on October 1 we say, 'Holy cow, we have to jump in on this.' So we've been phoning since April, starting to identify folks and figure out what their concerns are and listen to what's going on in their lives," Hesse said.

Mitt Romney on stage
Mitt Romney, former Republican presidential candidate and governor of Massachusetts, told Minnesota delegates the Republican Party should focus on winning the battleground states for McCain.
Photo by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Hesse said the union will target its message to voters concerned about health care costs, a bad economy and energy prices.

All combined, Change to Win and another labor union, the AFL-CIO will reportedly raise and spend between $300 and $500 million on this year's election to mobilize their core voters.

Barack Obama's campaign is also identifying its group of core supporters. Officials with Obama's campaign in Minnesota also announced an effort last month to target senior citizens.

Republicans both inside and outside the McCain campaign are ramping up their efforts as well.

"We got to get John McCain and Sarah Palin elected," said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. "I think this convention went a long way in convincing the American people that that should happen."

Romney, a one-time presidential candidate himself, spoke to a group of Republican activists this morning at a hotel in Minneapolis.

Romney said the party should focus on winning the battleground states for McCain. He added they should also focus on only the House and Senate races that they have a chance of winning.

Those races could include Minnesota's Senate race between Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and DFLer Al Franken, and the 3rd District Congressional race between Republican Erik Paulsen and DFLer Ashwin Madia.

"We're going to have to be more strategic, meaning we're going to have to focus on races that are close and make sure we win those close races," Romney said. "You're going to have to raise money. I know that wasn't what you signed up for. But money shouts. And you're going to have to go out there and get friends to raise money."

McCain's campaign has made it known that it's targeting disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters. It has also worked to court those who hunt and fish.

These efforts are a key sign of how competitive both parties see this election. The question is whether Minnesota will continue to receive attention in the remaining months of the campaign.

"Minnesota is a second or third-tier swing state. It's certainly not a first-tier swing state," said Kathryn Pearson, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota.

Pearson said both presidential campaigns will continue their voter mobilization efforts in Minnesota, especially since the state allows voters to register to vote on Election Day.

But she said recent polling seems to favor Obama, which means the candidates will focus their attention on other battleground states like Ohio and Colorado.

"I expect that we'll see a lot of activities by the campaigns and by surrogates," said Pearson. "But I actually don't expect that the candidates will come to Minnesota very much if at all, unless things get more competitive in Minnesota."

Pearson said it is possible that the polls in Minnesota could tighten. She said McCain could see a bounce in the polls as a result of this week's convention.