Obama’s Mpls stop ends four-day campaign swing

The president rallied for Democrats in Oregon, Washington, California and Nevada before coming to Minnesota.

Obama’s Mpls stop ends four-day campaign swing

Mike Mullen

President Barack ObamaâÄôs rally in support of DFL gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton capped a seven-city, 75-hour trip âÄî the most extensive campaign effort of his time as president. Wednesday afternoon, Air Force One left Andrews Air Force Base for a rally in Portland, Ore., and Obama did not return to Washington, D.C., until Saturday evening.

The president stumped for candidates in Oregon, Washington, California and Nevada âÄî where he attempted to bring momentum to the beleaguered re-election campaign of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid âÄî before campaigning with Dayton on the University of Minnesota campus.

From state to state, one unifying theme in ObamaâÄôs speeches was that the Republican Party was relying on “amnesia” of voters.

“TheyâÄôre betting that youâÄôll forget who caused this mess in the first place,” he told the crowd of 11,000 Saturday, which had filled the University Field House and overflowed into the Sports Pavilion.

Jennifer Duffy, an analyst on senate and governor races for the Cook Political Report, said that ObamaâÄôs visit, along with other recent speeches at the University of Wisconsin, Ohio State University and the University of Washington, was part of an obvious strategy.

“The idea behind these [events] is not only to motivate the Democratic base, but to motivate the younger demographic in that base that seems pretty disinterested in this election and certainly not as interested as they were in 2008,” Duffy said.

Beyond the strategy, Duffy said there might be a personal affinity that explains ObamaâÄôs itinerary.

“The president likes big rallies,” she said. “And he likes university settings.”

A Gallup Poll released Thursday, which relied on surveys conducted between July 20 and Oct. 19, found ObamaâÄôs national approval rating at 44.7 percent, the lowest in his presidency. The rating is similar to that of Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan at the same point in their presidencies, an ominous note for the Democrats: Both Reagan and Clinton suffered sweeping defeats in the mid-term elections.

Duffy said that ObamaâÄôs dip in approval, particularly in certain parts of the country, meant that some candidates would probably prefer he doesnâÄôt campaign on their behalf.

“He wants to help candidates, not hurt them,” Duffy said. “I donâÄôt think heâÄôs travelled south of Washington, D.C.”

“Credit and blame”

Locally, a Star Tribune poll found that Dayton held a slight, but growing, lead over Republican Tom Emmer in their race. In that poll, which was conducted last week, 41 percent of respondents supported Dayton while 34 percent supported Emmer. Independence Party candidate Tom Horner slipped from previous polls to 13 percent, with the remaining 12 percent undecided.

Democratic National Committee chairman and former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine was in Minneapolis on Wednesday to campaign with U.S. Rep. Keith
Ellison.

When asked why the Democrats would pay so much attention to a single gubernatorial race âÄî Vice President Joe Biden also campaigned for Dayton earlier in October âÄî Kaine spoke about MinnesotaâÄôs curious political history. The state has voted for a Democrat in every presidential election since 1972 but has not had a Democratic governor since Rudy Perpich left office in 1991.

“Minnesota is a really important state,” Kaine said. “And it is a state that we view as a little bit of an aberration.”

Nate Silver, the political prediction expert of the New York TimesâÄô FiveThirtyEight Forecasts, projected Friday that DaytonâÄôs likelihood of victory was 82.8 percent. SilverâÄôs projections, which are based on aggregating multiple polls, had given Emmer the edge until mid-June, but Dayton has held a decisive lead since August.

On Wednesday, Kaine talked about how the
departure of Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the open race to replace him gave Democrats a rare opportunity to pursue an open seat.

“In the midterm cycle, one of the things you often do is just play a lot of defense,” Kaine said. “But I always want to play offense. So I want to go to places weâÄôve got a chance to pick up a seat thatâÄôs the other guysâÄô”

“We want to be picking up seats, and we think that MinnesotaâÄôs one of our best pick up opportunities,” he said.

ObamaâÄôs visit to Minnesota was the result of a request made months ago by DaytonâÄôs campaign. Duffy said that, regardless of the visitâÄôs effect, all things good and bad will be attributed to Obama.

“HeâÄôs the president,” Duffy said. “Whether he wants to be or not, he sort of gets credit and blame for anything.”

Luke Feuerherm contributed to this report.