Obama leading Romney in Minn. early returns

Published 9:53 pm Tuesday, November 6, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS — President Barack Obama led Republican challenger Mitt Romney in early returns Tuesday in Minnesota, a state with a decades-long streak of backing Democratic presidential candidates.

Both Obama, who carried Minnesota in 2008, and Romney had virtually ignored Minnesota — Romney did not even have a statewide structure here — but the battle for the state’s 10 electoral votes heated up late in the campaign after a late poll showed the race tightening.

Both campaigns aired TV ads in Minnesota in the race’s closing days. Both also sent high-profile surrogates: Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan for Romney, and former President Bill Clinton for Obama.

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The late flurry echoed recent presidential cycles, when Republicans tried to turn Minnesota into a presidential battleground. Four years ago and in the two campaigns before that, Minnesota voters were showered with attention and advertising from the candidates and their allies. Outside groups hoping for a Romney win had sprinkled some money in the state on ads criticizing Obama’s leadership, and the incumbent aired a few ads of his own. But up until the last week or so, it all paled in comparison to their TV presence elsewhere.

Dawn Mattson, a 41-year-old Democratic voter from Blaine, said Obama got her vote because he overhauled health care and saved the car industry.

“He is really fighting for us, for like the lower class, middle class, and not the rich,” said Mattson, an administrative assistant.

But Kevin Gensch, a 34-year-old human resources manager who lives in St. Louis Park, said he voted for Romney after voting for Obama four years ago.

“I felt a little bit let down. Mitt Romney, I believe, will bring more fiscal responsibility to the United States,” Gensch said.

Even with the renewed hope, Republicans were again fighting history. Minnesota has sided with the Democratic nominee in every election since 1976, longer than any other U.S. state. Republicans won the state only once in the last half century, when Richard Nixon took Minnesota in his landslide 1972 win.

Earlier in the 2008 cycle, Minnesota looked like a possible big player in the presidential race. Two home-state Republicans, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Rep. Michele Bachmann, sought the Republican nomination. Both washed out well before Romney secured the nomination, but Pawlenty was in the hunt to join the ticket as vice presidential candidate until Romney chose Ryan, a U.S. House member from Wisconsin.

Obama had a clear advantage out of the gate. He won the state in 2008 by 10 percentage points and his approval rating mostly held strong throughout his first term. No Republican has won a statewide race since Pawlenty survived a re-election scare in 2006, and joining Obama on the Democratic ticket this year was the popular and heavily favored Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who easily won re-election Tuesday.

Obama’s campaign opened offices throughout the state while Romney lacked a significant Minnesota infrastructure.