According to an informed source, President Obama will be in town Saturday to deliver a speech. Some facets have not been confirmed, but the subject is expected to be health care and the venue is St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center.
[10:20 p.m. update: I’ve now confirmed with a second source — who, like the first, is not authorized to comment publicly — that topic is health care, the venue is Xcel and the time, for now, is 1 p.m. By the way, the Gophers’ first game at TCF Bank Stadium is scheduled for 6 p.m. that night.]
[10:45 p.m. update: Xcel’s Kathy O’Connor says no presidential visit is currently scheduled there Saturday. “The Minnesota Wild are actually scheduled to use the arena that day for training camp and their ticket on-sale,” she says. The club even has a countdown clock on its home page. So stay tuned on that detail; the Twins have a noon game at the Dome, so we’re running out of venues. Target Center at the same time as a Twins game? The Dome probably won’t be that crowded.]
The topic makes sense; Obama will give a national address on health care reform to Congress Wednesday night. The local stop could be part of a high-profile national swing to rally public support behind whatever specifics he endorses. Obama has often praised Rochester-based Mayo Clinic, so perhaps he’s leveraging that medical institution’s home state.
One of the most-awaited facets of Obama’s Congressional speech is whether he insists on a “public option” to compete with private insurance plans. That prospect has split Minnesota’s Congressional Democrats, with liberals such as Keith Ellison insisting on the provision, moderates such as Amy Klobuchar hedging, and conservatives such as Collin Peterson dismissive. Republicans are uniformly against the concept.
If Xcel is the place, the President would be returning to a place where he declared victory in the Democratic primaries 15 months ago. He had a rapturous crowd then; what will it be like this weekend?