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Clinton, Ryan in contrasting appearances

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Wearing a somber face, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan thanks volunteers in Hudson, Wis., Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, after they gathered food for storm victims. (Forum Communications photo by Don Davis)2 / 3
Education is an area President Barack Obama supports well, former President Bill Clinton tells a Minneapolis audience Tuesday, Oct. 30. (Forum Communications photo by Don Davis)3 / 3

MINNEAPOLIS -- The favorite old standby delivered a 38-minute speech.

The young up-and-comer's speech was shorter than three minutes.

The veteran speaker threw red political meat to his supporters.

The rookie national politician thanked people for donating canned meat.

Democratic former President Bill Clinton and Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan delivered different messages Tuesday in speeches along the Minnesota-Wisconsin state line.

Speaking in Minneapolis and Duluth, Clinton attacked GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, which is known in political circles as throwing red meat to party faithful.

Clinton, a star among Democrats 12 years after he left office, said Romney refuses to release details of most of his proposals.

"See me after the election about that," Clinton said Romney is telling Americans.

Ryan, a rising Republican star, returned to his home state of Wisconsin to thank members of the party in Hudson for collecting food for victims of superstorm Sandy.

He urged them also to contribute money and blood as the northeastern United States recovers.

"This is what we do in this country," he told more than a hundred campaign volunteers crammed into a storefront GOP office, repeating the comment to hundreds more who had waited outside for hours.

Ryan only referred to the campaign once in his brief talks. While standing near a "get out the vote" sign, he thanked volunteers for working for the campaign.

Ryan's thank-and-run visit is how the presidential and vice presidential candidates have handled campaigning since Sandy hit shore. Others, like Clinton, have not stopped the common campaign speeches.

Republicans are talking about the presidential race being tight in Minnesota, given a recent poll's results showing President Barack Obama's advantage over Romney has dwindled to 3 points.

Wisconsin, meanwhile, for months has been considered a swing state and top candidates and surrogates have been common visitors. Vice President Joe Biden plans a Friday visit to Superior.

In his Duluth and Minneapolis speeches, Clinton laid out three questions voters should answer:

• Who is more likely to help the middle and lower classes?

• Who is more likely to develop a 21st century economy that brings back the American dream?

• Who is more likely in today's divisive political environment to form a more perfect union?

The ex-president and his heavily Democratic audiences made it clear they think the answer to all three is President Barack Obama.

"I think Barack Obama has taken good care of this country," Clinton said.

Up to 700 attended his Duluth rally, with 1,800 allowed in to his Minneapolis event. In both cases, more people were in line than allowed in.

Many at both speeches, both on University of Minnesota campuses, were college students who likely had sketchy memories of his presidency.

"The rise of the far right ... really threatens America," Clinton said.

"Obama's plan is better," he added.

Clinton began his talk thinking about Sandy, which whipped through the community where he lives, taking down several of his neighbor's old trees.

Clinton's visit came as Republicans claimed the race in Minnesota is getting closer.

"The Obama campaign is having to send its top surrogate, former President Clinton, to attempt to save Minnesota," state Republican Chairman Pat Shortridge said.

Shortridge said the Obama campaign is worried. The latest poll, by the Star Tribune, showed Obama with a 3-point lead in the state that last voted for a Republican president when Richard Nixon won.

The price of admission to the Clinton event was listening to a pitch from the Obama campaign to volunteer in the campaign's waning days.

"He sees an audience, I see volunteers," said Jeff Blodgett, director of Obama's Minnesota effort.

As people lined up to see Clinton, they were asked to contribute "four shifts for four days for four more years," Blodgett said. Each shift would be four hours volunteering for the campaign.

The Obama campaign continues to operate at full throttle, despite the fact that Romney has no presence in Minnesota and the state Republican Party faces financial problems.

Among the loudest cheers came when at the end when Clinton told the university crowd that Obama has improved student loan programs.

Among the president's accomplishments, Clinton said, is a program that would adjust student loan payments based on income. That means, he said, that students would be more likely to move to low-paying rural Minnesota communities.

Romney's plan, Clinton said, would make student loans more expensive and would increase the drop-out rate and cause America to lose ground in global standing.

Steve Kuchera of the Duluth News Tribune contributed to this story.