Campaigning continues Sunday in Minnesota's race for governor, following a high-profile visit from President Barack Obama Saturday for DFL gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton.
At the University of Minnesota, Obama offered a defense of his party's policies, including health care overhaul and Wall Street reform. He told the audience that voting for Republicans would be voting to slide backwards and undo the economic progress Democrats had made.
A forecast of rain forced the DFL to move Obama's rally from an outdoor setting to the old Field House. The rain never came, but about 7,000 people did, according to University estimates.
Obama was introduced by an all-star DFL lineup, including U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Sen. Al Franken, and lastly Dayton, who gave a short speech before Obama took over. The president reminded the audience that he and Dayton served in the Senate together.
"I know this man and I know he's been fighting for the people of this state his entire career," Obama said. "Everybody else in this race might be talking about change; here's the only candidate who can actually deliver change."
Obama stood in rolled up shirtsleeves against a background of students wearing the U's gold and maroon colors. Dayton stood by his side, nodding, smiling and clapping. Obama told the crowd to defy conventional wisdom by refusing to buy into political ads and scare tactics.
"The point is Mark Dayton has spent his life fighting for Minnesota and now I need all of you to fight for Mark Dayton so we can keep this state moving forward," Obama said.
The crowd who turned out for Obama and Dayton skewed on the younger side and those are the voters that Obama is trying to get to the polls for Democrats in just over one week.
Many who attended seemed to be strong Democrat supporters, including U of M student Joshua Casey, a sophomore. He'd been canvassing for Dayton in north Minneapolis Saturday morning.
"I drew that correlation for people, saying Obama is endorsing Dayton, he's a fan of Dayton," Casey said. "As soon as some people saw that they were kinda like 'Hey, who's this Dayton guy? Maybe I should get out and vote for him.'"
But Dayton wasn't recent U graduate Nick Brezny's first choice for governor. The political science major liked other Democrats, and said Republican candidate Tom Emmer is too far to the right for him. He doesn't think Independence Party candidate Tom Horner can gather enough support to win, so he's glad Obama came to Minnesota.
"I know he's having trouble in other parts of the country, but I like to think this is a pretty safe area for him," Brezny said. "I'm confident in Dayton regardless, but it sure as heck helps to have a fairly popular president for Minnesota to come out and speak."
Republicans answered the president's rally with events of their own in the Twin Cities suburbs.
"We are just days away from watching the very end of the Pelosi/Obama express train," Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann said at a rally in Woodbury.
Roughly 100 people crammed into Bachmann's campaign office in Woodbury to show their support for Bachmann and Tom Emmer.
Bachmann and Emmer said if elected, Republican candidates will work to stop excessive government spending in Washington and Minnesota. Emmer didn't mention President Obama by name during his speech, but later told reporters that Obama's trip here is re-emphasizing Dayton's message that government needs to spend more.
"He's making the choice even more distinct," Emmer said. "Do you believe in the direction that we're going right now which is, at a federal level, we're growing government bigger than ever."
Dayton, Emmer and Horner will hit the campaign trail again Sunday. Dayton will attend two church services in north Minneapolis. Emmer will hold a campaign rally with Pawlenty in St. Louis Park. Emmer, Dayton and Horner will also take part in a live televised debate tonight on KSTP-TV.
(MPR reporter Tom Scheck contributed to this report)
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