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President Barack Obama (left) speaks during a visit to the Red Cross national headquarters in Washington on Tuesday. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney helps collect donations at a storm-relief event in Ohio.
MINNEAPOLIS--Mitt Romney is suddenly plunging into traditionally Democratic-leaning Minnesota and Pennsylvania, and his GOP allies are trying to put Michigan into play. It's forcing President Barack Obama to defend his own turf--he's pouring money into television ads in the states and dispatching top backers--in the campaign's final week.
Former President Bill Clinton was dispatched in response on Tuesday. "Barack Obama's policies work better," he declared on the University of Minnesota campus, one of his two stops in a state that offers 10 electoral votes and hasn't voted for a Republican presidential candidate since Richard Nixon in 1972.
This late-game expansion of a campaign playing field that, until now, had focused on just nine states was taking place exactly a week from Election Day. At the same time, Obama spent a second day in Washington to focus on his presidential duties and Romney edged back into active campaigning in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.
"This is a tough time for millions of people but America is tougher," the president said during a brief visit to the American Red Cross, where he sought to reassure victims, encourage aid workers--and warn of more storm damage to come with rising floodwater.
In Ohio, Romney, too, spoke of concern for storm victims, telling supporters who were collecting supplies that "a lot of people hurting this morning."
Beyond the candidates' pause from feverish campaigning, the impact of the storm on the election wasn't all that clear.
Of the nine states where the two men have spent more than $1 billion in advertising since June, Romney is in the strongest position in North Carolina. But public and internal campaign polls show he's locked in tight battles
That said, Romney still could win. Anything can happen in the race's closing days--including Democratic-leaning states like Minnesota, Pennsylvania or Michigan going Republican.
Clinton's Minnesota visit came just days after Romney and his allies started airing TV ads in the state. GOP-leaning groups including Americans for Job Security and American Future Fund were spending $615,000 this week. Romney spent a much lighter $29,000 last week, and it was unclear how much his campaign was spending this week. All together, the efforts led Obama to follow suit to prevent the state from slipping out of his grasp. His campaign was spending $210,000 on ads in Minnesota this week.
Polls show Romney having gained ground in Minnesota though still trailing Obama. And Obama has a much larger campaign footprint of paid staff and volunteers, including more than 30 full-time workers and 12 offices. Romney never has established much of campaign organization in Minnesota.
In Pennsylvania, Romney's campaign started pouring money into TV ads Monday for the first time, though Republican-leaning groups have been on the air in recent days trying to narrow the Obama advantage indicated by surveys. Republican groups--American Crossroads, Restore Our Future and Americans for Job Security--are spending at least $3.9 million this week. That does not include spending by Romney's campaign. Obama aides said the president's campaign is spending $625,000.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is coming back to Virginia Beach on Thursday, his campaign announced.
He also is making campaign stops in Roanoke on Thursday morning and Doswell in the afternoon.
President Barack Obama planned to turn his attention back