Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan made a fly-by stop to Minnesota on Sunday afternoon.
Before a capacity crowd in a hanger at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, Ryan energized the crowd with the question, “Minnesota, are you going to help us win this election?”
Republicans characterized Ryan’s visit as a signal that the sleepy presidential race in Minnesota was waking up and that Republicans were preparing for an upset victory in a state that has reliably voted for Democrats at the top of the presidential ticket for 40 years.
Ryan, who represents a U.S. House district in the southern part of Wisconsin, portrayed himself as a near-native son, mentioning family members who now live in Minnesota, a summer he spent working in Eden Prairie and shared traditions between the two states.
“In DC, people say, ‘Oh yeah, Ryan. You’re that budget guy from Minnesota, right?’” said Ryan. “No I’m from Wisconsin, close. We’re the Catholic deer hunters, they’re the Lutheran deer hunters.”
All four of Minnesota’s Republican U.S. House members were at the rally and gave brief speeches to fire up the crowd. U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack, who’s facing the toughest re-election challenge in the state, was given the prime slot and introduced Ryan as his daily exercise buddy in Washington.
“You should see him do an insanity workout,” said Cravaack.
Despite Republicans’ enthusiasm and certainty that the state could wind up in their column, no opinion polls have shown President Obama with a less than 3 percentage point lead over the Republican ticket.
Still, Ryan’s visit could energize Republican volunteers in a state where the GOP Senate candidate, state Rep. Kurt Bills, has failed to gain traction and the state party has suffered financial woes.
Before Ryan’s plane landed and taxied up to the hanger, at least 60 volunteers were making phone calls in a phone bank off to the side of the hanger to remind voters to vote and to tell them who the candidates in their district were.
“Whatever your plans were tonight, cancel them, change them. Get out to the phone bank. Knock on doors. Drop lit. There are phone banks set up literally all across this state,” said U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann.
Tom Arnold of Blaine, said as he entered the rally that until 10 days ago, he had received little to no contact from the Romney campaign despite being an active Republican.
“It’s incredible how the Romney campaign literally turned the machine on and has been making contacts like you wouldn’t believe,”
Whether a last-minute surge in enthusiasm by Republicans will be enough to counter an Obama turnout machine that’s been present in the state for 14 months will become clear Tuesday night.
The Obama campaign noted that Sunday’s rally was the first public event that the Romney campaign has held in Minnesota in eight months.
Listen to Paul Ryan’s entire speech here: