President Obama campaigned in Minnesota on Saturday, his fifth state in four days, as he tried to build enthusiasm among the traditional elements of the Democratic Party for a midterm election that polls showed had become tighter in its final days.
“I need you fired up,” Obama said, “because in just 10 days you have the chance to change not just the direction of the state, but also help determine the direction of this country, not just for the next two years, but for the next five years, next 10 years, next 20 years.”
Obama gave what had become his standard stump speech, stressing his administration’s effort to reverse the economic recession that he inherited by using governmental power to stimulate the economy. He praised programs he had initiated including healthcare insurance overhaul and tightening regulation on financial institutions.
He again lashed out at Republicans for refusing to help govern and trying to bring the country back to policies that he said had failed. He urged a return to the optimism that propelled him into the presidency in 2008.
“Just like you did in 2008, you have the chance to defy conventional wisdom,” Obama said, attacking what he called the Republican politics of cynicism and special interests.
“This election is a choice between the policies that got us into this mess and the policies that are leading us out of this mess,” Obama said, using almost the exact words he had used at rallies in recent days. It is a “choice between the past and the future, a choice between hope and fear, a choice between moving forward or going backward.
“I don't know about you, but I want to move forward,” Obama said.
Obama left a sunny Las Vegas in the morning for the flight to Minneapolis, where he spoke at a rally in support of Democrat Mark Dayton, who faces Republican Tom Emmer in a three-way race for the governor’s office. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is eying a presidential run in 2012, decided not to seek a third term.
In some parts of the country, Democratic incumbents have downplayed their ties to Obama, a president whose approval rating is below 50%, according to most polls. But not in Minnesota, where the gubernatorial candidate embraced a tie-less Obama and his policies. "I will be a governor who will say thank you, Mr. President, for all you have done to help our state.” said Dayton, a former U.S. senator, who is running slightly ahead in the polls.
“Are you fired up and ready to work hard for 10 more days?” Dayton asked, and the crowd responded yes.
Obama carried Minnesota in 2008 with 54% of the vote and reminded the crowd that voting was important.
It was a similar theme that he haf struck in other appearances.
“If everybody who showed up in 2008 shows up in 2010, we will win this election,” Obama said Friday night in Las Vegas, speaking on behalf of Sen. Harry Reid, the majority leader whose seat and post are on the line in the election. Some polls show him slightly trailing Republican Sharron Angle, a “tea party” movement favorite.
Throughout his current campaign swing, the president has given the same pitch to what polls show is a reluctant Democratic base. At rallies and in local media interviews, Obama argues that every Democratic vote is needed to prevent Republicans from capturing Congress.
Polls show Republicans, fueled by tea-party anger, doing very well in this cycle. Running on a platform of opposing Obama’s healthcare insurance overhaul, they also have attacked the government’s $814-billion stimulus spending effort for not creating enough jobs to seriously lower the 9.6% unemployment rate and have condemned the administration’s financial reform program.
As is common in midterm elections, Republicans are expected to increase their influence in both chambers of Congress, and some polls show them winning control of the House. Polls show the GOP has a more difficult shot at controlling the Senate, where they need to capture 10 seats from Democrats. Republicans also are expected to increase their control of governors’ mansions to more than 30, giving them an edge in the battles to redistrict congressional and local legislative districts.
The president is working hard in the last days of the election. In addition to the current swing, Obama is scheduled to campaign next week in Rhode Island before hitting the hotly contested states of Connecticut, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio toward the end of the week.
Sarah Palin, the shooting star of the Republican right, warned her party Saturday not to get overconfident about the midterm elections despite polls showing the GOP gaining congressional seats.