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Presidential candidates raise millions in Minnesota, but spend their time elsewhere

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Presidential debate
Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney (L) listens to US President Barack Obama speak on October 16, 2012 during the second of three presidential debates at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.
Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

The final campaign finance reports of the election are in, and they show that President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, have raised millions in Minnesota but have spent relatively little of that money in the state. 

Obama has raised $632 million for his campaign, with about $6.2 million coming from donors in Minnesota. Those figures don't include cash raised by the Democratic National Committee, which would bring Obama's total to $1 billion.

Obama's campaign has held several fundraisers in the state, including one in early June at the Bachelor Farmer, a downtown Minneapolis restaurant owned by Gov. Mark Dayton's sons. Several of Obama's largest donations arrived within days of the event. 

His most generous donors include names well-known within the Minnesota DFL, including attorneys Sam Heins and Stacey Mills, a husband and wife team who serve as two of Obama's most productive bundlers in the state. Both gave the maximum $5,000 to Obama's campaign.

Andrew and Eric Dayton, Gov. Dayton's sons, each gave the maximum $5,000, as did members of the Pohlad and Cowles families. 

Romney's Minnesota cash haul is smaller. Of the $388 million Romney has raised just for his campaign, $3.1 million has come from Minnesota. He made a fundraising swing through Minnesota, too, as has his running mate Paul Ryan. But neither held public events during those stops. 

Romney's big-dollar donors include Joan Cummins, who is married to conservative donor Robert Cummins, and Stanley and Karen Hubbard, owners of Hubbard Broadcasting.

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Going into the final days of the election, Obama has more cash in the bank to spend than Romney does, but Romney has the edge when you include money from the Republican National Committee. Some of that cash has gone to Minnesota.

Obama has been advertising on cable, radio and in the Rochester broadcast market. All told, he's spent at least $1 million here on telemarketing and payroll for state's staff. 

And on Friday, Obama's campaign announced an ad buy in the Twin Cities market.

However, the campaign stressed that it's targeted at western Wisconsin, a battleground state that shares the Minneapolis-St.Paul media market. 

Romney is airing ads for the first time here in the final days of the race, too. News reports say it's a relatively small $30,000 buy.  Overall, Romney has spent at least $14.6 million in the state, largely because a fundraising and telemarketing firm used by his campaign happens to be located here.  

Groups unaffiliated with his campaign, including the American Future Fund, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Job Security, have dumped millions on Minnesota ads critical of Obama's presidency, which have also given Romney a boost. 

But aside from the two fundraisers Romney has held in Minnesota, his campaign hasn't paid much attention to the state and has no ground game in here. 

So, his last-minute ad buys raise the question of whether Republicans believe they can pick up a state that has long voted for Democratic presidents. 

Ben Golnik, who is advising Rep. Chip Cravaack's campaign in Minnesota's 8th Congressional District and who served as Sen. John McCain's regional campaign manager here in 2008, says Minnesota could be in play because  recent polls show Obama with a narrower lead than he had four years ago. 

 "I think that President Obama has a lead but not a sizeable lead," Golnik said. "And I think there's more energy and enthusiasm [among Republicans] here than there was four years ago," something Golnik argues Democrats don't have. 

Golnik added that Romney's lack of organization in the state shouldn't preclude him from a win here. But University of Minnesota political science professor Larry Jacobs said advertising simply isn't enough to win the state.

"It's one of the cardinal rules now: You don't do these media buys without an organization," Jacobs said. "Why? Because you need people to do the phone calling, the literature drops, the door-knocking, or the money just literally disappears into the ether." 

Romney's buy has the added benefit of forcing Obama to spend money in an area that he might otherwise ignore this late in the game, Jacobs added. 

But really, neither of these buys are about Minnesota, Jacobs said. They're about Wisconsin, where Obama has a steady but slight lead.

"If either Obama or Romney win Ohio, then you need Wisconsin to put together another coalition," Jacobs said. "There's an Obama lead there, but it's slight. Romney is looking at states that are steady and slight."  

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