Obama’s Minn. message: Look at hiring veterans

Published 7:04 am Sunday, June 3, 2012

GOLDEN VALLEY — President Barack Obama used a Minnesota visit Friday to tout a new initiative to connect veterans with jobs, saying that many private employers could benefit from skills veterans gained through their military service.

Obama flew to Minnesota with two of the state’s Democratic members of Congress, U.S. Reps. Betty McCollum and Tim Walz. He was met at the airport by a delegation of the state’s Democratic leaders, including Gov. Mark Dayton, U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The president’s first stop was the Honeywell International plant in the Minneapolis suburb of Golden Valley, which has made hiring veterans a priority. Speaking to a crowd mostly made up of Honeywell employees but including a number of the state’s influential Democrats, the president warmed up the crowd with a reference to a political story much in the news in Minnesota.

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“It is good to see your governor, Mark Dayton, here,” Obama said. “On the way over we were talking about making sure the Vikings were staying. Now, that’s a hard thing for a Bears fan to do. But I was rooting for the Vikings sticking around here, and the governor did a great job.”

Along with touting his jobs for veterans plan, Obama responded to a gloomy May jobs report by urging Congress to enact more of his policies aimed at giving the economy a push. He said economic health isn’t returning as quickly as it should, but said Congress could address that by approving spending on construction and infrastructure projects and by giving employers tax breaks for hiring and increasing wages.

Minnesota’s former Republican governor, Tim Pawlenty, criticized Obama before the event. Pointing to a report that just 69,000 jobs created in May, the fewest in a year, Pawlenty charged that Obama’s policies have stifled job creation.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call set up by the campaign of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Pawlenty again insisted he’s not interested in being Romney’s running mate. But he said he would be unlikely to decline if asked to serve.

Pawlenty also acknowledged that Romney would likely face an uphill battle to win Minnesota in November. Obama remains popular in the state, which holds the longest unbroken streak of supporting Democrats for president. The last time a Republican presidential candidate won Minnesota was Richard Nixon in 1972.

After the Golden Valley event, Obama was headed to a trio of high-dollar fundraisers at a downtown Minneapolis restaurant owned by Dayton’s sons.

Tickets to a fundraiser luncheon cost $5,000. That was to be followed by two small roundtables, with respective ticket prices of $40,000 and $50,000 per person. Proceeds were going to Obama’s campaign and other Democratic campaign efforts.