Ryan rallies thousands at airport

Polls vary on how tight the presidential race is in Minnesota.

Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan speaks at a rally Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012,  at the Sun Country Airlines hanger in Minneapolis.

Anthony Kwan

Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan speaks at a rally Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, at the Sun Country Airlines hanger in Minneapolis.

Jessica Lee

Once considered a Democratic stronghold, Minnesota has become a target for presidential candidates in the 11th hour of the election.

Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan campaigned in Minneapolis on Sunday afternoon for a “victory rally” the same day President Barack Obama sent surrogate Bill Clinton to speak at St. Cloud State University.

Ryan spoke for 20 minutes to an eager crowd of about 8,000 — 2,000 more than expected — at the Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport as thousands more, who were denied because of fire code regulations, waited outside.

While endorsing his and presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s policies, Ryan spoke about creating jobs, the economic deficit and Minnesota’s stake in the presidential election.

“This is not your ordinary election,” Ryan said. “This is the most important election in our generation, and, Minnesota, we could use your help.”

University of Minnesota accounting sophomore and College Republicans Treasurer Matthew Stetler attended and said he liked hearing about “Romney’s plans to bring America back on track.”

He said the visit from Ryan would generate enthusiasm and affect poll results on Election Day.

“I think it really shows that Minnesota is in play for a Romney victory,” Stetler said. “It’s not a guarantee win by the Democrats like it has been before.”

Other students agreed. Alexandra Blake, an accounting junior at South Central College made the trip from Faribault, Minn., for the day to hear the candidate speak.

She said the visit from Ryan is important because it “raises awareness that Minnesota is not an automatic win by the
Democrats.”

“Minnesota is typically a blue state, but I think it would be cool if all our electoral votes went to Romney-Ryan,” Blake said.

For nearly 40 years, Minnesota has voted for the Democratic presidential candidate.

Ryan, a Wisconsin native, addressed the state’s left-leaning history and said he and Romney plan to “work with people on both sides of the aisle, like the people of Minnesota and Wisconsin are used to doing.”

Polls vary on how tight the presidential race is in Minnesota.

“This morning we found out that Minnesota could prove to be a pivotal state in this election,” said U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann from Minnesota’s 6th District, who spoke at the rally.

Conservative PAC America’s Future Fund released a poll Saturday that found Romney led Obama in Minnesota 46 to 45.

Public Policy Polling, which also released its final poll numbers Saturday, found Obama leading Romney 53-45.

Last month, a Star Tribune/Mason-Dixon poll found that Obama had a 3 percentage point advantage over Romney.

“The Ryan visit might make the Obama campaign put more resources into Minnesota, which would be good [for Republicans],” said Larry Jacobs, a political science professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

“The visit — a strategy on the offense for Romney — might put Obama on the defense,” he said.

Jacobs said the last-minute campaign stop from Ryan is “unusual” as Minnesota has been mostly ignored by the Romney campaign.

Obama has several field offices in Minnesota while the Romney campaign has none.

“One of the challenges for the Romney-Ryan ticket is how well they can do with advertising dollars without having troops on the ground,” Jacobs said.

Compared to his opponent, Romney’s campaign has not spent as much funding and attention on Minnesota.

Jacobs said Ryan’s visit is like “doing an invasion of a country without worrying about supply lines.”

“He’s trying to rally some of the troops behind the ticket,” Jacobs said. “The Republicans would like the Obama campaign to have to fight for Minnesota.”

The visit from Ryan could help the congressional and senate Republican candidates in Minnesota as well, Jacobs said.

“He’s got political friends in the state and may be partly trying to pitch in and help out those candidates,” Jacobs said.

Ryan was in St. Paul last Tuesday for a private dinner at O’Gara’s after holding a campaign event in Hudson, Wis.

Kelly Fenton, deputy chair for the Republican Party of Minnesota, expressed the importance of Ryan’s visit at the airport.

“This stop is huge,” Fenton said. “It means Minnesota is actually at play, and we are working hard to get the wind at our back.”

After Minneapolis, Ryan is planning to stop in Milwaukee, Ohio, Iowa and Nevada in the final 48 hours before the election.