Former President Bill Clinton stumped for Barack Obama Tuesday in a move that for the first time this election cycle really brought presidential politics to Minnesota, a state long considered safe in Obama’s column.
Clinton, who spoke to a crowd of 1,800 at the University of Minnesota, outlined deep differences between Obama and his GOP opponent, Mitt Romney, on how they would handle policies ranging from higher education to health care over the next four years.
“I know what’s better for the American economy — Barack Obama,” Clinton said, working his speech around the theme of “a more perfect union,’ a theme he has employed in the past.
“You should make sure that every single college student and their families in the entire state of Minnesota — and anybody else you can talk to over the Internet between now and Election Day — knows this.”
Clinton and a host of other lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Gov. Mark Dayton, urged students to re-elect the president, highlighting the crucial youth vote that helped Obama sweep into office in 2008. Clinton will also speak at the University of Minnesota-Duluth campus Tuesday afternoon.
The former president also attacked Romney for attempting to trick voters into believing he is a moderate. Clinton repeated Obama attack lines that Romney can’t possibly pay for his proposed tax cuts and spending increases, let alone cut the mounting deficit, that he’s promised over the course of the campaign.
The hastily scheduled visit from Clinton came amid questions this week about whether Minnesota is a competitive state for Romney. Sunday’s Star Tribune poll found Romney within 3 points of Obama, who won the state by 10 points in 2008.
Both camps also have made ad buys in Minnesota media markets — Obama’s much larger.
“I have worked very hard in this election, and I’m not running for anything,” Clinton said, acknowledging his role as the campaign’s top surrogate. “I am more enthusiastic about President Barack Obama than when I campaigned for him four years ago.”
The Obama campaign attempted to downplay the idea of a last-minute Romney surge in Minnesota during a conference call with reporters on Monday and said the ad buys were meant for media markets in Wisconsin that overlap with the metro area.
Romney’s running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, is making an impromptu detour in Minnesota Tuesday afternoon before heading to a planned event in Hudson.
Amendments, local races also featured
While Minnesota basked in its newfound national glow on the presidential scene, Gov. Mark Dayton and others at the rally reminded the crowd about the importance of homegrown Election Day issues.
Klobuchar urged “no” votes on both proposed constitutional amendments, and Dayton urged supporters to help wrestle the Legislature from Republican control.
“Yeah, I’ve got my fingers and my toes crossed,” said an animated Dayton. “If you get the DFL majority in the House and Senate, I’ll shine your shoes, I’ll press your coats, I’ll take your exams for you, I’ll do whatever you need me to do. We’ve got to have the DFL Legislature.”
Dayton also condemned the “two terrible constitutional amendments” — one would define marriage as only between one man and one woman, and the other would require a Photo ID to vote and alter Minnesota’s election systems — and the “disgusting” advertisements supporters have put on the airwaves.
“We’ve got to send them both back.”