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Obama projected to win Minnesota

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota went for President Barack Obama for the second time.

While pre-election polls offered conflicting views about whether Minnesota was in play in the presidential election, news organizations called Minnesota for the incumbent less than an hour after polls closed.

Democrat Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney sent top surrogates into Minnesota in the last couple of weeks, something not seen for most of the campaign when there was little doubt Obama held a solid lead. But in recent days, Republicans claimed the state had moved into play, while Democrats continued to insist the president would win.

GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan appeared before thousands in the Twin Cities on Sunday, and one of Romney's sons and the Republican National Committee chairman were in the Twin Cities Monday. Former President Bill Clinton rallied Minnesota Democrats three times within a week.

Obama had a campaign staff in several Minnesota communities for months, while Romney never opened an office.

Two Hermantown voters illustrated how voters split on the presidency.

"I'm very much in favor of a change," Bill Grillo said, adding he is a strong Mitt Romney supporter. "I'm not happy at all what's happened with the economy the last four years, it's been a failure, and we need some new direction."

"He (Obama) inherited such a big, giant mess the first time," rebutted Obama backer Sharon Erola. "He's tried to do the right things but he has Congress fighting him every step of the way."

Republicans gathered in Bloomington, Minn., were confused Tuesday night as news organizations prepared to call Wisconsin. There were cheers and then a moment of confusion as Fox News showed Romney with a big early lead, then called the race for Obama.

A SurveyUSA-KSTP poll released over the weekend showed Obama leading Romney 52 percent to 41 percent. Obama led by 7 points less than a week earlier.

Other recent polls, however, showed Obama's lead as small as 3 points.

One longtime Republican leader, Michael Brodkorb, wrote in his blog that the last-minute Romney campaign push in Minnesota was too little, too late.

"Minnesota presented a real opportunity for the Romney campaign and resources should have been spent here weeks ago," Brodkorb wrote. "But Romney's campaign has not put the substantive resources needed into Minnesota to make the race more competitive and Ryan's vanity stop (Sunday) won't put Minnesota in the win column for Romney."

Even with thousands attending the rally, Brodkorb said, the visit did little good because there was no "strong Romney organizational structure in place in Minnesota to put the thousands of volunteers that attended Ryan's rally to work in the final hours of the campaign. In fact, many volunteers left phone banks and stopped dropping lit for local candidates to stand in an airport hangar to cheer for a candidate who's likely not going to win Minnesota."

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was a leader of Romney's campaign, after he quit his own presidential effort, until he accepted a Washington lobbying job.