Over the past several days, my colleague Joel Pollak and I have noted that the ground seemed to be shifting in deep blue Minnesota. Although no Republican presidential candidate has won the state since 1972, there were signs that the race between Obama and Romney was tightening. Today comes news that former President Bill Clinton will campaign in the state this week. This confirms that the state is definitely in play.
Pollak and I wrote about the changing state of play in Minnesota here, here, and here. Over the weekend, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune released a poll showing Obama with just a 3-point lead in the state and well below the important 50% threshold that signals an incumbent’s strength. This came on the heal of news that both campaigns had booked TV advertising in the once solid-Obama state. In 2008, Minnesota saw no advertising or appearances by either campaign.
That the Obama campaign feels the need to deploy Bill Clinton, its most effective surrogate, to the state is telling. It is also telling that they are sending him to Duluth. The city is in the so-called Iron Range, one of the state’s Democrat bastions. It is a clear sign that they are worried about their base turning out. Its corroboration of the lack of Democrat enthusiasm we’ve seen in all the polls.
As I always caution, at this stage in the campaign, don’t believe what campaigns say, believe what they do. If Obama is sending Clinton to Minnesota, it means they are worried about losing the state. If the ground is moving away from there here, it must be moving away rapidly elsewhere.
An old friend who was on the McCain campaign in 2008 told me an apocryphal story from late in that race. A colleague told him he thought they were going to be okay in North Carolina. My friend replied, “The fact that we’re talking about North Carolina now shows you we’re in trouble.”