WASHINGTON — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and more than a dozen fellow Democratic governors met with President Obama on Friday to talk about jobs and the economy. Dayton said it was a policy-first meeting, but in an election year, the meeting was an especially important opportunity for Obama and the Democratic state executives to rally around the president’s message of economic recovery.
The governors met with several Obama administration officials before talking with the president for about an hour and a half, Dayton said. Most of the meeting was about the economy and the focus stayed on national topics rather than state-specific concerns.
Dayton said he encouraged the president to simplify the message surrounding his landmark 2010 health care overhaul package, a topic Republican presidential contenders have often used to bash Obama on the campaign trail.
“I told him about the Affordable Care Act, if you ask audiences specifically, ‘do you approve of raising the age of dependents’ coverage to 26 years, do you approve of banishing pre-existing conditions,’ when told what’s really happening under the bill, people are really supportive,” Dayton said in an interview on the north lawn of the White House after the meeting.
Dayton praised Minnesota’s relatively low unemployment rate (5.7 percent, compared to 8.3 nationally) and said it could improve in the federal government works to improve the economy nationally.
“We’re doing a lot right in Minnesota,” he said. “Our businesses have been proactive in responding and we’ve got a good, diversified economy, and if the general economy improves, that will create more market opportunities for our businesses to sell more products and services throughout the country.”
Though Dayton said the meeting was more about policy than politics, Obama’s 2012 prospects were inevitably an important subject for the governors. At a press conference after the meeting, a series of governors from around the country spoke about the meeting with Obama, each highlighting the slowly strengthening economy and the way the president has worked to influence it.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley mentioned the 23 straight months of positive unemployment numbers; Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said Obama “saved the auto industry from extinction, the financial industry from self-destruction and the economy from depression.” Gov. Chris Gregoire of Washington highlighted Obama’s recent visit to her state to talk about manufacturing, and Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy went as far as to say, “if the American voters vote on jobs, this guy is going to win with 75 percent of the vote.”
For Dayton’s part, he characteristically declined to predict Obama’s fortunes in Minnesota come November, but he made it clear he thinks Obama is due for a second term.
“I never try to predict the wisdom of the electorate, but he’s working very hard at being the best president we could possibly have,” Dayton said. “I’m personally, especially looking at the Republican line-up, persuaded that without any doubt at all he’s the best president we could possibly have.”
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry