Obama rallies Democrats in tight Minn. race

By Philip Rucker
Washington Post / October 24, 2010

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MINNEAPOLIS — Laboring to stave off a Republican rout in the Midwest, President Obama yesterday rallied his party’s base around gubernatorial hopeful Mark Dayton, a rare Midwestern Democrat positioned to buck that trend.

In an afternoon rally at University of Minnesota’s field house, Obama implored a raucous crowd of 8,500 to rekindle their enthusiasm with the midterm elections just 10 days away.

Obama warned that Republicans want to return to Bush-era economic policies and are betting on the “amnesia’’ of voters.

“Minneapolis, it’s up to you to show them you have not forgotten,’’ Obama said.

“It’s up to you to show them that this election is a choice. It’s a choice between the policies that got us into this mess and the policies that are leading us out of this mess.’’

The president added: “It’s not like they went out into the desert and they said, ‘Boy, we really screwed up,’ and they went and meditated for a bit and came back with some new ideas.’’

Obama called Dayton the only candidate for governor here who is fighting for the middle class. “You know Mark Dayton,’’ Obama said. “He’s got a track record. . . . I need all of you to fight for Mark Dayton.’’

Polls show Dayton, 63, a one-term senator who left office in 2007, enjoys a narrow lead in a close three-way race against state Representative Tom Emmer, a Republican, and Tom Horner, who is the Independence Party candidate.

Republicans are poised to pick up several governorships now held by Democrats, but the Minnesota race offers Democrats a rare opportunity this year to capture a Republican seat.

The winner here would succeed Tim Pawlenty, a Republican who is retiring after two four-year terms and is a likely 2012 presidential contender.

Stumping in Minnesota, Obama capped off a four-day tour of Western battleground states where he campaigned vigorously for three endangered Democratic senators and two other gubernatorial candidates and raised several million dollars for the party’s final get-out-the-vote efforts.

Obama campaigned this week in friendly territory; he carried all five states — Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada and Minnesota — by comfortable margins in his 2008 presidential campaign.

Obama won Minnesota, 54 percent to 44 percent, but his approval rating has fallen here as it has everywhere. Pawlenty welcomed Obama to the so-called Land of 10,000 Lakes with a tongue-in-cheek video that poked fun at both politics and regionalisms.

After yesterday’s rally, Obama attended a Minneapolis fund-raiser for Dayton.

The president was scheduled to return to the White House last night. On Monday, he flies to Rhode Island to raise money for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Obama will return to the campaign trail next weekend with a final blitz to rescue his party’s congressional majorities, stumping in Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland, and Bridgeport, Conn.

Obama campaigned Friday for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is locked in a tight race against Republican Sharron Angle, a Tea Party candidate.

The Nevada race illustrates Democrats’ difficulties as they seek to retain control of Congress in the Nov. 2 election.

Reid, a four-term senator, got 61 percent of the vote in 2004. This year, the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report rates the contest a tossup.

Republicans need a net gain of 39 seats to get a majority in the 435-member House of Representatives. They hold 41 of the 100 seats in the Senate and are not expected to pick up enough seats to claim a majority.