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Obama, to stave off rout in Midwest, rallies Dems in Minn.

President Obama is ending a four-day campaign swing at a rally in Minneapolis for the Democratic nominee for governor, Mark Dayton. The president has made earlier campaign stops in Oregon, Washington state, California and Nevada. (Oct. 23)

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By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 23, 2010; 6:30 PM

MINNEAPOLIS - Laboring to stave off a Republican rout in the Midwest, President Obama on Saturday rallied his party's base around gubernatorial hopeful Mark Dayton, a rare Midwestern Democrat positioned to buck that trend.

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In an afternoon rally at University of Minnesota's field house, Obama implored a raucous crowd of 8,500 to rekindle their enthusiasm with the midterm elections just 10 days away.

Obama warned that Republicans want to return to Bush-era economic policies and are betting on the "amnesia" of voters.

"Minneapolis, it's up to you to show them you have not forgotten," Obama said. "It's up to you to show them that this election is a choice. It's a choice between the policies that got us into this mess and the policies that are leading us out of this mess."

The president added: "It's not like they went out into the desert and they said, 'Boy, we really screwed up,' and they went and meditated for a bit and came back with some new ideas."

Obama called Dayton the only candidate for governor here who is fighting for the middle class. "You know Mark Dayton," Obama said. "He's got a track record. . . . I need all of you to fight for Mark Dayton."

Polls show Dayton, a one-term senator who left office in 2007, enjoys a narrow lead in a close three-way race against state Rep. Tom Emmer (R) and Tom Horner, the Independence Party candidate.

Republicans are poised to pick up several governorships now held by Democrats, but the Minnesota race offers Democrats a rare opportunity this year to capture a Republican seat. The winner here would succeed Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who is retiring after two four-year terms and is a likely 2012 presidential contender.

Stumping in Minnesota, Obama capped off a four-day tour of Western battleground states where he campaigned vigorously for three endangered Democratic senators, two other gubernatorial candidates and raised several million dollars for the party's final get-out-the-vote efforts.

Obama campaigned this week in friendly territory; he carried all five states - Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada and Minnesota - by comfortable margins in his 2008 presidential campaign.

Obama won Minnesota, 54 percent to 44 percent, but his approval rating has fallen here as it has everywhere. Pawlenty welcomed Obama to the so-called Land of 10,000 Lakes with a tongue-in-cheek video Saturday.

"Some people think we talk funny here, so I thought I'd help you with some local phrases you might hear," Pawlenty said in the video. "For example, we say 'uffdah.' If you wanted to use it in a sentence, it would be like, 'You said unemployment would stay below 8 percent and now it's almost 10 - uffdah!'"

"Also, some Minnesotans don't like to offend people by coming right out and saying, 'No,' so instead they say, 'Eh, not so much,' " Pawlenty continued. "Like if you asked Minnesotans, 'Do you like the federal takeover of health care?' They might say, 'Eh, not so much.' "

There's a certain irony to Pawlenty's video, because he has taken heat in the local press here for spending so much time politicking out of state - namely in neighboring Iowa - even as he finishes out his second four-year term in office.

Obama is scheduled to return to the White House on Saturday evening. On Monday, he flies to Rhode Island to raise money for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and will spend the remainder of the week in Washington.

Obama will return to the campaign trail next weekend with a final blitz to rescue his party's congressional majorities, stumping in Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland, and Bridgeport, Conn.

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