MINNEAPOLIS - Former President Bill Clinton worked Tuesday to galvanize Minnesota Democrats, telling them "in the real world, Barack Obama's policies work better."
Clinton vouched for Obama during at a rally on the University of Minnesota campus and later headed north to Duluth, the gateway to an area in northern Minnesota where Democrats typically have a foothold. His swing through Minnesota came as Republican Mitt Romney and his allies were giving new attention to a state considered critical to Obama's fortunes.
About 1,800 people heard Clinton tout Obama's policies for health care, foreign affairs and college affordability.
"Obama is far more likely to lift the middle class and give the poor a chance to work their way into it. Obama is far more likely to build a modern economy. Obama is far more likely to keep us moving toward a more perfect union instead of being divided by ideology, by economics, by politics," Clinton said.
Romney's campaign countered that the GOP nominee was the one offering fresh ideas while Democrats lodged attacks.
"Mitt Romney is offering real change for a real recovery, with 12 million new jobs, rising incomes and a stronger middle class," spokesman Ryan Williams said.
Republicans argue Clinton's stop is a sign of Democratic worry. Both Romney and Obama have begun airing ads in Minnesota, but Obama has a bigger staff and more volunteers.
Acknowledging some nervousness about a race he had hoped Obama would have nailed down long ago, supporter Frank Nemeth said he was nonetheless confident the president would pull it off.
"Those people who voted for him before are going to come home to support his style of leadership," predicted Nemeth, a 75-year-old retired architect from Minneapolis who attended the Clinton rally.
In Duluth, Clinton delivered a similar message to an overflow crowd. He warned of "the rise of the far right" threatening the country, the Duluth News Tribune reported.
Meanwhile, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan landed at the Minneapolis airport later Tuesday on his way to an event just across the Wisconsin border. Ryan didn't respond to questions from reporters before heading into a private terminal.
After thanking volunteers in Hudson, Wis., for packing relief supplies for victims of superstorm Sandy, Ryan headed back across the border to downtown St. Paul for dinner with his wife, Janna, giving him more exposure in the Twin Cities media market.
Minnesota offers 10 electoral votes but has received little attention compared with the neighboring battlegrounds of Iowa and Wisconsin. No Republican presidential candidate has won the state since Richard Nixon's re-election in 1972. It's the longest uninterrupted Democratic streak in the nation.
But Minnesota Republican Party chairman Pat Shortridge said every election carries surprises, like Obama's unexpected victory in Republican-leaning Indiana four years ago.
"Sometimes streaks end," Shortridge said.
Associated Press writer Philip Elliott contributed.erspot