"I don't think he has to break down a wall," said Republican strategist Greg Strimple, who was the pollster for 2008 GOP nominee John McCain's presidential campaign. "He's in position to run the table, but he needs to have an insurance card in there in case he doesn't."
Still others said it was simply a matter of Romney's campaign and backers having so much money that they can afford to make low-probability efforts in the off-chance that one might bear fruit. Many pointed out that it is almost impossible at this late date for the campaigns and their allied groups to buy more ads in saturated states such as Ohio, Virginia and Florida.
"It's not really desperation" that drives such decisions, said veteran GOP strategist Mike McKenna of Richmond, Va. "You think, 'Maybe I can make the other guy spend some money there,'" even if the state is probably out of reach.
Other Republicans joined Democrats in saying that Romney options are shrinking and he had no choice but to find different paths to victory, and had the money to do it.
"If they didn't have so much money, they wouldn't be able to do something with so little chance of success," said Tad Devine, top electoral strategist for Democratic nominee Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004.
He called the Minnesota and Pennsylvania efforts by Romney more a "head-fake than a strategic move" because of what he called enormous Democratic voting trends and electoral advantages. Those include a heavy union presence in both states and a large minority population in Pennsylvania.
Obama carried Pennsylvania and Minnesota each by 10 percentage points in 2008.
Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa; Charles Babington and Ken Thomas in Washington, Beth Fouhy in New York and Steve Peoples in Kettering, Ohio, contributed to this report.