Is something happening here?

Tomorrow John Edwards appears for the Kerry campaign in Duluth and Vice President Cheney appears for the Bush campaign in International Falls. The apparent focus of the Bush and Kerry campaigns on northern Minnesota (the territory covered by Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District) is no accident. The issue of snowmobile use — see “Desperation & snowmobiles” discussing the Edwards appearance in Minneapolis yesterday — in the federal Superior National Forest preserve is a hot-button issue in the Eighth District, and the Bush campaign appears to be making inroads on this traditional Democratic turf with it.
On October 13, the National Rifle Association announced its endorsement of President Bush at a press conference in Duluth. The NRA chose its spot wisely. The standard Democratic positions on recreational issues involving guns and wilderness use represent a significant Democratic vulnerability in northern Minnesota. Such progress as the Bush campaign has made in the area recently appears to be attributable to the efforts of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, one of the most effective conservative organizations in the state.
As of October 21, the Rasmussen daily tracking poll showed the presidential race tied 47-47 in Minnesota. On that date the Taxpayers League began running a single radio advertisement on six stations in Duluth, three stations in Hibbing, two stations in Eveleth, two stations in Grand Rapids, one station in International Falls and one station in Ely — all in the Eighth District. The advertisement hammers Kerry on mining, logging, hunting and snowmobiles. The Taxpayers League plans to run the spot over 500 times on those stations by election day.
Yesterday’s Star Tribune column by Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman on the snowmobile issue reflects the leverage the issue is providing the Bush campaign in northern Minnesota. Today the Rasmussen tracking poll shows that President Bush has moved into a small lead in Minnesota, 48-45; the just-released Humphrey Institute Poll shows President Bush with a 47-44 lead. Taxpayers League president David Strom tells me that the calls he has received from northern Minnesota television and radio stations in response to the organization’s ad show that it has struck a nerve, as does the press conference called by the Democratic Party to take issue with it. For want of a snowmobile, could the Democrats lose Minnesota? Stay tuned.
UPDATE: See also “$10 contribution now may yield 10 electoral votes Tuesday” at Outdoor Baseball. On the polling front, RealClearPolitics has alerted us to a new poll released yesterday by St. Cloud State showing Kerry with a 49-42 lead, the results of which make it an outlier in the most recent public polling: “Poll shows Kerry with slight edge over Bush.”

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