MINNEAPOLIS -

Republicans in Democratic-leaning Minnesota made a show of force when Paul Ryan campaigned in the state two days before Election Day.

The Minneapolis rally with Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate drew an impressive and enthusiastic crowd -- it was one of Ryan's largest solo events since he joined the ticket -- giving Republicans anecdotal evidence that their map to 270 electoral votes could be expanding.

The seven-term congressman from Wisconsin made a moderate pitch to voters from the neighboring state that hasn't voted for the GOP presidential nominee in decades.

"Look, Minnesota and Wisconsin, Wisconsinites and Minnesotans, we are bipartisan states, we know you have to work with people across the aisle because they're with us, they're part of us, they're in our own families. That's what it's like where we come from, it's also what it's like where Mitt Romney comes from," Ryan said.

The Romney-Ryan campaign said 6,500 people attended the rally held in a large hangar at St. Paul-Minneapolis International Airport early Sunday evening, the same day former Democratic President Clinton campaigned there on behalf of President Barack Obama.

In a memo circulated Saturday to top Republican leaders and surrogates in the media, the Romney campaign says they are "forcing Obama on defense" in states he won handily in 2008 -- including Minnesota, Michigan and Pennsylvania, where Romney campaigned on Sunday and where Ryan was the day before.

In the face of poll numbers showing a challenging path to victory Tuesday, particularly in Ohio, CNN reported the Romney campaign is telling allies to talk up Republican chances in Democratic-leaning states while insisting that "GOP enthusiasm" will carry Romney to victory on Election Day.

Both sides recently made ad buys in Minnesota, which includes the Minneapolis media market that reaches parts of Wisconsin, a "toss-up" state on CNN's Electoral Map.

While Romney advisers point to recent partisan polling showing the race with the margin in the single digits, one Democratic source tracking media buys dismissed Romney's move, calling it a "press release" trying to generate buzz about a tightening race that he does not believe exists there.

Ryan played up his Midwestern roots and connection to the state, including a brief stint in college as an Oscar Mayer salesman.

"I spent a summer working in Eden Prairie, working for Oscar Mayer. My job was to sell Oscar Mayer products to Northern Minnesota," he said. "I pulled my share of Walleye out of Mohawks...This is God's country when you combine Minnesota and Wisconsin. It is great to be home."