Obama's Minnesota trip: Takes in beauty of Minneapolis parks, bemoans ugliness in Washington


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MINNEAPOLIS — Over two days, President Barack Obama took in two of Minnesota's most scenic parks all while he talked about how ugly Washington had become. Obama headed back to Washington on Friday after his stay in Minneapolis, where he spoke extensively about how gridlock has stymied economic progress. Here are some takeaways:

HEARTLAND CONCERNS

Obama said he wanted to take a pulse of Americans and their views about the state of the economy.

An invitation-only town hall Thursday and a ticketed speech Friday weren't exactly a representative sample, but it's clear Obama isn't alone in his gripes about Washington.

"I know that our politics looks profoundly broken, and Washington looks like it's never going to deliver for you. It seems like they're focused on everything but your concerns," Obama said during an economic policy speech on the shores of Lake Harriet, telling people to urge Congress to rally around "economic patriotism."

Nonprofit executive Norm Munk, a self-identified Democrat, was among those quick to defend Obama as trying to get important legislation moving.

"He's forged ahead," said Monk, who voiced concern that future generations could pay the price for inaction. "For kids, my children, it's tough. It's the generation that's not doing better for the first time in history."


'NERVOUS' DEMOCRATS

Obama's swing came about four months before the midterm election in which his party is at risk of ceding ground.

Minnesota Democratic officials say they hope Obama's appearance can inspire voters who might otherwise sit the election out. State Democrats say they can't afford the typically steep drop-off in Democratic votes in nonpresidential years if they expect to retain the governor's office, a Senate seat, five seats in Congress and control of the state House.

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minneapolis Democrat who isn't seen as at risk, said party mobilizing and emphasizing bread-and-butter issues like Obama did will be instrumental in re-electing Sen. Al Franken and Gov. Mark Dayton.

"We should absolutely be nervous — so nervous we get up every day and call and knock and knock and call and call and knock," Ellison said after Obama left Lake Harriet. "Complacency has no place. Yes we should be nervous but I don't think we should be discouraged."


KEEPING A DISTANCE?

Franken joined Obama during only a limited portion of the president's Minnesota visit, in an unpublicized tour of a suburban workforce center Friday.

"It was a good visit, and I'm pleased the president is making this a national priority," Franken said in a prepared statement.

After that tour, Franken headed north to Duluth for a memorial service for former Rep. Jim Oberstar. Franken didn't attend the town hall event Thursday at Lake Minnehaha or the lakeside speech Friday.

Franken spokeswoman Alexandra Fetissoff said the White House told the senator that logistically he could attend either the workforce center tour or speech, but not both.

Republicans are criticizing Franken as being too cozy with Obama when it comes to policy, such as the nation's new health law. A political group known as the Heartland Campaign Fund is driving that point home in an ad launched in conjunction with Obama's Minnesota trip showing the president and Franken on the same screen.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Dayton spoke to the crowd before Obama at Friday's event.

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