Candidates campaign heavily in Minnesota before Election Day

by Stephanie Kudrle

If the presidential candidates and their surrogates are tired of visiting Minnesota, they aren’t showing it.

President George W. Bush and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry’s campaigns have had a major political figure come to the state almost every week since September.

Whether it’s daughters, running mates or celebrities in town on their behalfs, both candidates have designated Minnesota as a state to win.

And with good reason too, said Larry Jacobs, University political science professor and political analyst.

“Minnesota is absolutely up for grabs,” he said. “This is going to be a nail-biter.”

Candidate stops benefit the campaigns in several ways, he said. The stops are intended to bolster energy to turn out voters on Election Day, to reward volunteers for hard work and to grab free media publicity, Jacobs said.

“You can spend a lot of money to put out ads on TV,” Jacobs said. “Or you can come to town for some free exposure.”

Jake Grassel, chairman of the state College Republicans, said he’s excited for the election because Republicans have a chance to win the state.

When candidates come to town, it energizes people to volunteer for Bush, he said.

“With all the attention on Minnesota, the polls are neck and neck,” he said. “The stops have been helping.”

Grassel said Minnesota has not always been a stop for presidential candidates, but this year has seen that trend reverse.

“Back in the day, we used to say, ‘Why don’t we get any stops?’ ” he said. “Now, it’s almost too much.”

Minnesota will be a tight race, Grassel said, but he predicted Bush would come out on top. The next five days will be crucial, Grassel said.

“In politics, there’s no time for a break,” Grassel said. “On (Wednesday), it will be time to celebrate and sleep.”

Chris Montana, chairman of the College Democrats of Minnesota, agreed that the race was going to be tight, but he predicted a different outcome.

“It’s going to go to whoever works the hardest,” he said. “And ultimately, I think Kerry is going to win.”

Although candidate stops might seem redundant, Montana said, every visit is a great chance to see and hear the candidate.

“When you have an opportunity to get a candidate in front of you and they are telling you their plan, it’s inspirational even though you’ve heard it before,” he said.

More volunteers always sign up after a candidate visits town, Montana said.

Even though the campaign season has been exciting, Montana said, he has big plans for the days after a winner is announced.

“I’m going to go to bed,” he said. “And I’m not going to do anything political for at least a week after the election.”

Motivating students to vote seems to be working, said Mike Dean, grassroots coordinator for the University’s Legislative Network.

He said thousands of students have preregistered to vote in the election, which is much more than usual.

And if students are worried about voting on Election Day, Dean said, Minneapolis and St. Paul are offering early voting at their city halls.

“We’re very hopeful that people will go out to the polls,” he said. “There are a lot of reasons to vote this year, and there has been a lot of hype.”