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A glancing blow in the final days of the presidential race

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Joe Biden
Vice President Joe Biden reaches out to hold 4-month-old Simon Hamill from his dad Kyran, of Eau Claire, Wis. after Biden's campaign event, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012, at the Zorn Arena on the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus. Biden is campaigning in Superior, Wis., today.
AP Photo/Stacy Bengs

The vice president is up in Superior, Wis., today and the man who wants his job will be here Sunday. Religious rifts abounded at last night's debate over the marriage amendment. A Minnesota native may be hearing Oscar whispers. And there's sobering news about the walleye count on Lake Mille Lacs. Let's plow through the politics race first:

IT'S THE ECONOMY:  With a final snapshot of the nation's economy before Election Day in hand, showing an improved hiring picture as well as a slight uptick in the jobless rate -- both candidates were plunging into a hectic pace of campaigning. As an economic marker, the report sketched a picture of a job market that is gradually gaining momentum after nearly stalling in the spring.

HERE'S THE REPORT:  U.S. employers added 171,000 jobs in October and hiring was stronger over the previous two months than first thought. The unemployment rate inched up to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in September. Since July, the economy has created an average of 173,000 jobs a month, up from 67,000 a month from April through June. 

ST. JUDE:  Related to the nationwide numbers' there's this: Medical-device maker St. Jude Medical will cut about 500 positions as part of a reorganization plan. About 100 of the company-wide job cuts will come in Minnesota. The company had already announced 300 layoffs in August, including 80 in Minnesota. 

Paul Ryan, the Republican nominee for Vice President, will campaign in Minnesota on Sunday, holding a rally at the Minneapolis St. Paul Airport at 3:30 p.m.

CHANGE, OR CHANGE?  Five days before the election, Republican challenger Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama vied forcefully for the mantle of change Thursday in a country thirsting for it after a painful recession and uneven recovery, pressing intense closing arguments in their unpredictably close race for the White House. Early voting topped 22 million ballots.

MINORITY REPORT:  It's a fairly safe bet, based on polls and history, that non-Hispanic white voters will choose Republican Mitt Romney by a wide margin in Tuesday's presidential election. And that's a problem for the GOP. Steep racial divisions this year that put overwhelming numbers of minority voters in President Barack Obama's camp mean the Republican Party must attract more nonwhite voters in coming years, or watch Democrats walk away with a sustained Electoral College majority

WEATHER REPORT:  Election officials were ordering generators, moving voting locations and figuring out how to transport poll workers displaced from coastal areas as Tuesday's presidential election became the latest challenge for states whacked by Superstorm Sandy. Early voting in parts of Maryland, West Virginia, New Jersey and North Carolina has already been affected.

We're still going full throttle on our Minnesota campaign coverage, with debates, stories and more.

GLANCING BLOW: Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan will make the modern version of a whistle stop in Minnesota on Sunday, holding a 3:30 p.m. rally at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport. The man he wants to replace, Vice President Joe Biden, is campaigning in Superior, Wis., today.

OUR FINAL DEBATE:  National and local figures debated Minnesota's proposed marriage amendment last night on the stage of the Fitzgerald Theater, hosted by MPR. Rev. Jerry McAfee of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church and Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage supported the amendment. Bishop Gene Robinson, Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, and Sarah Walker, board member of Minnesotans United for All Families, opposed the question.  Together, the four exposed conflicting views of religion and human relationships, and what's at stake in Minnesota's vote from their own points of view.

THE CONTEXT:  Marriage is already illegal in Minnesota - no matter what happens with the amendment vote, that will continue to be the case. So how did we end up here, with a divisive battle over marriage rights? Sasha Aslanian's special report, including audio, an interactive timeline and more, offers some perspective.

KLOBUCHAR vs. BILLS:  It was 6 a.m. but Kurt Bills was already awake and speaking to voters the other morning. Shaking hands at a park and ride in Lakeville, Minn., the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate was trying to make up ground on Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is far ahead in the polls, and in campaign cash. As commuters rushed to get on the bus to Minneapolis, Bills quickly handed them campaign literature. Some walked right by him. Others said they would vote for him. Most accepted the flyers and didn't say anything at all

CRAVAACK  vs. NOLAN: Two years ago, Republican Chip Cravaack traveled throughout northeastern Minnesota in a huge RV with his picture on the side, introducing himself to voters who had sent Democratic stalwart Jim Oberstar to Washington 18 times. After pulling off the upset of 2010 in Minnesota by defeating Oberstar, Cravaack faces an equally tough fight this year as he attempts to prove his first win was no fluke.

Election Day is indeed drawing near. But there's other news from around the state, too. 

SAFE IN ST. PAUL: People filled the seats and stood along the walls of a church basement on St Paul's east side Thursday to learn more about fatal police shootings of two suspects on the same day last week. Officers shot Victor Gaddy, 41, after he allegedly tried to ram officers with his car. A few hours later, officers shot Chue Xiong, 22, several times after they say he shot at them. Also, earlier this summer a 19-year-old woman was killed in a homicide in the neighborhood. 

SOREL STEPS DOWN:  Gov. Mark Dayton announced Thursday that Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel will step down to become president and CEO of AAA Minneapolis. He was appointed by former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and has served as transportation commissioner since April of 2008.

WALLEYE REPORT: This fall, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' annual gillnet survey in Lake Mille Lacs turned up half as many walleye as last year -- a 40-year low. And they say they're "very concerned" about the walleye-fishing jewel of Minnesota that's also central to the region's economy. In a letter to resort and business owners on the lake, Rick Bruesewitz, the Aitkin area fisheries supervisor, explained the walleye, especially the larger ones, were in "poorer condition" compared to previous years.

MAGIC AND MYSTERY: It's hard to believe someone as baby-faced as comedian Joel Hodgson has become one of the country's comic veterans. But next year will mark the 25th anniversary of the launch of his "Mystery Science Theater 3000," a Twin Cities television production which became a national sensation. The premise: Mad scientists had kidnapped a fresh-faced Midwesterner named Joel and stranded him high above the earth on the Satellite of Love, or SOL. There they forced him to watch terrible movies from the past to see how he would react. Hodgson returns to Minneapolis this weekend to reveal the secrets behind creating the show.

THE HAWKES SESSION:  Alexandria native John Hawkes likes a challenge. But the actor who received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of an Appalachian meth addict in "Winter's Bone" initially felt the role in his new film "The Sessions" might be beyond him. In it, he plays a man ravaged by polio who decides he doesn't want to die a virgin. William H. Macy plays a priest who tries to devine the Almighty's view of the matter, and Helen Hunt plays the registered sex surrogate who takes on the assignment.

SPCO CANCELS SHOWS:  Following the news yesterday that musicians with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra had rejected the latest contract offer from management, we've learned that the SPCO has now canceled performances through to the end of the year.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST:  A winter wonderland made of icicles grown from 4 million gallons of water will be created at the Mall of America this winter. The ice castle, made by a company called Ice Castles LLC, will stand 40 feet tall and an acre wide. Officials say it will take four to six weeks to construct the castle. A late December opening is planned.