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McCain dials back Minn. ad buys in final week

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John McCain in Cedar Falls, Iowa
Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) holds a campaign rally at the University of Northern Iowa October 26, 2008 in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Behind in the polls with a week to go, Republican John McCain is slowly fading from Minnesota television airwaves.

      McCain has diluted previous ad buys and fallen behind Democrat Barack Obama's weekly ad pace, according to an Associated Press examination of Twin Cities TV records.

      Until recently, Minnesota was one of the rare places where McCain was outspending Obama on TV ads. At his peak, McCain was spending more than $500,000 per week on commercials in the Twin Cities even though Minnesota hasn't backed a Republican presidential candidate since 1972.

      McCain isn't going completely dark, and ad purchases can and do change daily. But his buying pattern is noticeably shifting.

      At NBC-affiliated KARE-TV, for instance, McCain originally reserved $96,600 of time to run ads from Oct. 17 to Oct. 26. Late last week, he trimmed the total to $80,000 and added six days to the rotation. As of Monday, McCain was due to air only 10 commercials on the station this week, compared with the dozens of ads he's run in past weeks. At KMSP-TV, the FOX affiliate, he is due to run five spots this week.

      At other stations and the market's dominant cable provider, two-week buys are being stretched over three weeks without much new spending.

      Tom Steward, McCain's Minnesota spokesman, said the campaign doesn't comment on ads and related strategy.

      Obama is scheduled to run hundreds of commercials in the market between now and Election Day. Most independent polls have him leading in the chase for Minnesota's 10 electoral votes.

      Barring changes, Obama was due to spend $1.63 million in the Twin Cities on ads over the final four weeks. McCain was on course for just shy of $1.08 million, including spots paid for jointly by the Republican National Committee.

      For the year, the two campaigns combined to spend about $6.2 million in the Twin Cities on nearly 10,000 commercial segments. Both campaigns have also purchased time in the Duluth market, approaching $1 million between them.

      Jeff Blodgett, Obama's state director, said the campaign won't let down its guard even if McCain draws down his ad spending.

      "We know the McCain campaign continues to contest this state," Blodgett said, noting that Republican-paid mailings are arriving in voters' mailboxes.

      Blodgett showed off the Obama campaign's get-out-the-vote planning to reporters Monday. As volunteers stuffed information packets, he described the campaign's goal of personally contacting 500,000 newly registered or dormant voters in Minnesota. He said each of those voters will get up to four visits between now and next Tuesday, and another 600,000 voters will be called.

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             (Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)