MINNEAPOLIS - President Barack Obama brought his "Opportunity for All" campaign to the Lake Harriet Bandshell Friday morning, capping off a two-day Twin Cities trip that mixed politics, policy initiatives and fundraising.
The president repeated one of the key themes from his Minnehaha Falls town hall meeting, that progress on family pocketbook issues has stalled in Washington due to partisan politics.
"So far this year Republicans in Congress have blocked and voted down every single serious idea to strengthen the middle class," President Obama remarked. "They've said no to raising the minimum wage. They've said no to fair pay for women."
Obama applauded the Minnesota legislature's move to raise the state minimum wage from $6.15 to $9.50 per hour in three steps between now and August of 2016. In August of 2014 the wage will increase to $8.00 per hour, surpassing the federal minimum of $7.25.
He said family friendly policies in the work place, such as expanded paid family leave, actually make companies more productive in the long run, because they foster loyalty and that leads skilled workers to stay put.
But the Republican-dominated Congress has promoted policies that increase profits, expected that wealth at the top will "trickle down" to average families.
"They actually voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans," Obama said, prompting a round of booing from the friendly crowd of 3,500.
"Don't boo, by the way," the president ad libbed, "I want you vote!"
That reference to the upcoming mid-term elections underscored another point of Obama's travels, to drum up support for the Democratic candidates. Those mid-terms -- typically marked by lower participation by younger voters -- will determine how much influence Obama will have in his lame duck years.
The president was introduced by Rebeka Erler, a Saint Anthony woman known only as "the mystery mom" days earlier.
Her letter to President Obama became the focal point of the Obama's Twin Cities visit, beginning with a video the White House posted to YouTube Monday.
"Yesterday I sat down with the president over burgers and ice tea for a very honest and heartfelt conversation," Erler said. "Despite the overwhelming nature of the circumstances I as immediately put at ease."
The two dined at Matt's Bar in south Minneapolis, an establishment known for its "Jucy Lucy" cheese burger.
"Yeah, I had a Jucy Lucy, which was quite tasty!" the president remarked.
He said Erler's story, in a way, in America's story -- one of resilience and adapting to tough circumstances.
Erler wrote of how her husband Ben saw his construction jobs dwindle during the Great Recession, which led him to change jobs. Rebekah Erler returned to school and landed an accounting job.
But she wrote it's been tough to keep up with the cost of living, while dealing with college debt and child care expenses for their two sons. She asked, in the missive, if anyone in Washington still cares about what average people in the middle of the country are experiencing.
"I'm here because Rebekah wrote to me and I want her to know I'm listening. I'm here as president because I want you all to know that I'm listening!"