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Rybak brings pro-Obama message to national stage

WASHINGTON — Hitting Mitt Romney and Republicans has become one of R.T. Rybak’s newest areas of expertise as vice chair of the DNC.

WASHINGTON — R.T. Rybak’s goal this fall is to get President Obama re-elected. He laid out the case for such a task on Tuesday night.

Speaking to the Democratic National Convention on its first night, Rybak made the case both for Obama’s re-election and against that of Republican challenger Mitt Romney, a comfortable two-part message the Minneapolis mayor has fine-tuned during his year as a Vice Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Rybak rattled off a list of Obama accomplishments repeated by many Democrats throughout the night: passing the stimulus act and health care reform, ending the war in Iraq and hunting down Osama bin Laden. He used his own state as an example throughout, crediting Obama with providing infrastructure funding for roads and bridges and supporting clean-energy jobs. He said Obama’s time in office has been spent focusing on the middle class.

“President Obama earned every gray hair on his head fighting for the middle class, and for every American,” he said.

Naturally, he was tougher on Romney and the Republicans.

He slammed Romney for opposing the auto bailout Obama supported (“Romney was wrong. Obama was right”) and for proposing a tax plan Democrats say will lead to lower taxes on the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. Romney’s policies, he said, would bring the country back to the George W. Bush days.

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Republicans in Congress who have opposed Obama’s policies were also to blame, Rybak said.

“I don’t recognize a once-proud party that’s been hijacked by extremists who’ve driven it off the flat earth they pretend we’re living on,” he said. “They spent eight years creating a colossal mess and the last four doing almost nothing — except, of course, trying to blame it on President Obama. Hey, pyromaniacs shouldn’t blame the firefighter.”

As vice chair of the DNC, hitting Romney and Republicans has become one of Rybak’s newest areas of expertise. He’s become a top national spokesman for Democrats and has worked to counteract the Republican ticket as it traverses the country ahead of Election Day: on Wednesday, for example, he’ll hold a conference call with local Democratic and labor officials in Utah ahead of Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s stop there.

Rybak’s was one of a half dozen speeches from mayors at the DNC on Tuesday: he followed Corey Booker (Newark, New Jersey) and Anthony Foxx (Charlotte, the host city), and preceded Rahm Emanuel (Chicago) and Julian Castro (San Antonio). The night’s headliner was First Lady Michelle Obama.

Rybak was the first mayor to endorse Obama’s presidential run back before the 2008 election. He led off his speech telling a story about campaigning for Obama before the 2008 Iowa caucuses, and said he was more proud of Obama now than he was then.

“Back then, I hoped he would be a great leader,” he said. “Today, I know it.”  

Beyond Rybak, other Minnesota Democrats have been making the rounds in Charlotte this week, among them:

  • Gov. Mark Dayton spoke to the Minnesota delegation on Tuesday and slammed Ryan for inaccurately saying he had run a marathon in under three hours (Ryan said he erred when discussing the marathon time). Dayton speaks at Democratic Governors Association events later in the week.
  • U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar spoke at a breakfast for South Carolina Democrats on Tuesday, and she’s scheduled to follow that up with a speech to Iowans on Wednesday.

Sen. Al Franken is also in town for the festivities, according to MPR, but several other Democrats (chiefly U.S. Reps. Collin Peterson, Betty McCollum and Tim Walz) skipped the convention. 

Devin Henry can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry