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Action heats up as polls show tight race

By Matthew Stolle

mstolle@postbulletin.com

With polls showing the race tightening in Minnesota, presidential campaign activity is beginning to intensify in both Minnesota and Rochester.

Sen. John McCain and his running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin were set to hold a rally in Anoka County Airport in Blaine this morning with Republican congressional candidate Brian Davis scheduled to speak to the crowd. Davis, a Mayo Clinic doctor, is running against DFL Congressman Tim Walz.

On Sunday, national security experts will be stumping for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama at noon at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.

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The town-hall-style meeting will feature retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who was in charge of training the Iraq military and later became a critic of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s management of the war.

Other panelists will include Democratic Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and chairwoman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, and former ambassador Bob Gelbard, who served as President Clinton’s special representative for the Balkans from 1997 to 1999.

The forum is the first Obama political event in Rochester since the campaign opened an office earlier this summer and comes after a Minnesota poll showed the race a tossup with Obama and GOP presidential nominee John McCain tied at 45 percent.

The most recent poll, conducted by phone by Big Ten Battleground Poll over three days ending Wednesday, gave Obama a narrow 47 to 45 percent lead over McCain, with a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Until recently, polls have shown Obama with a lead ranging as large as 15 percentage points. The Minnesota poll was the first to show the race in a dead heat and its 10 electoral votes up for grabs, according to Real Clear Politics, which still has the state leaning in favor of Obama.

"We’ve always thought that this was going to be a really close election," said Ben Grossman-Cohen, a spokesman for the Obama campaign in Minnesota. "This is a must-win state for both campaigns."

Meanwhile, a new study indicates that McCain has been spending far more money than Obama on TV advertising, according to the Wisconsin Advertising Project. It revealed that since the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, McCain spent half a million dollars on ads in Minnesota, while Obama just spent $18,000 in Minnesota, mostly in the Rochester market.

So far no word of whether Obama or McCain have plans to visit Rochester with the general election less than six weeks away. During the 2004 presidential election, Rochester was the site of multiple presidential and vice-presidential campaign events.

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