Aiming to boost the prospects of President Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates in Minnesota as voters prepare to go to the polls next week, former President Bill Clinton visited Minnesota today to make the case for the Obama administration's economic record.
Before about 1,800 people packed into the McNamara Alumni Center on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis, Clinton said the president been a good steward of the country and is more likely to help the middle class than Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
Minnesota is the latest stop for Clinton, who is starting to resemble a candidate as he stumps in swing states across the country.
"I have worked very hard in this election and I'm not running for anything," Clinton said. "And that's because, notwithstanding what Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan say, I am more enthusiastic about President Barack Obama than when I campaigned for him four years ago and I want you to know why."
“I am more enthusiastic about President Barack Obama than when I campaigned for him four years ago...”Former Pres. Bill Clinton
Clinton then spent the next 35 minutes praising Obama's policies on health care, education and the economy. He also criticized Romney's policies on taxes, Medicare and the economy. The former president's speech in Minneapolis came hours before a brief campaign appearance by Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan in Hudson, Wis.
In what has been a familiar campaign theme for Obama, Clinton mentioned that Romney wants to push economic policies that were enacted under former President George W. Bush.
"Despite his 11th-hour conversion to moderate rhetoric and the debates," Clinton said, "Gov. Romney has not changed his position on the fundamental issues or his fundamental argument against the president: 'We left him a terrible mess; he didn't fix it all. Fire him and put us back in.' "
Clinton encouraged the group of mostly college students to help get out the vote for Democrats.
Gov. Mark Dayton, former Vice President Walter Mondale, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum also spoke at the rally.
Mondale told the students that their votes could make the difference.
"This election is really close," Mondale said. "You can feel it. You can read it in the polls. You can sense it in how the nation is dealing with the issues of the day."
Clinton also spoke at a rally at the University of Minnesota Duluth, where he spoke in support of former U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, a Democrat who is trying to unseat freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack.
The two events on Minnesota college campuses are a signal of how important college students are to the president's re-election effort. In 2008, college students turned out in big numbers for Obama.
But it's unclear whether students will turn out in the same numbers this year.
U of M student Kira Leichter said college students are more focused on defeating the constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman than backing either of the presidential candidates.
"People who support Minnesotans United for All Families, there's a lot of energy for that and for defeating the marriage amendment," said Leichter, a sophomore. "But then for candidates in particular, there's not a lot of enthusiasm."
Others don't see it that way.
Pat Hepner, an Obama volunteer in the audience, said she senses strong enthusiasm for Obama in north Minneapolis and is confident the president will win Minnesota.
Nevertheless, Hepner said she is worried that Obama could lose the race for president.
"It's getting closer," she said of the presidential contest. "People don't really understand how much Obama has done for our country."
Republicans argue that voters do understand what Obama has done and don't like it.
Minnesota Republican Party Chairman Pat Shortridge said he believes Clinton overstated Obama's accomplishments over the past four years. Shortridge also said Clinton's visit is a signal the Obama campaign is struggling in Minnesota and other states.
"I think the fact that President Clinton and other Democrats are going to college campuses demonstrates that they need to motivate their base," Shortridge said. "We see it in the data that Republicans at this point in the election — one week away — are much more motivated, are much more enthusiastic and are much more likely to vote. They have a base problem."
Neither Ryan nor Romney has scheduled a campaign stop in Minnesota and the campaign has not opened a field office in the state. Obama's campaign has 11 field offices and more than 40 paid staffers.
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