Michigan Dems welcome Obama with open arms


While some Democratic lawmakers across the country have been looking for ways to distance themselves from President Obama — and his sagging poll numbers — candidates in Michigan warmly embraced him on Wednesday. 

Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who is looking to replace retiring Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) this fall, joined Obama aboard Air Force One for a trip to Ann Arbor, where the president called on Congress to raise the minimum wage.

Before the speech on the University of Michigan campus, Obama and Peters practiced some retail politics. The pair visited Zingerman's, a popular local deli chain that pays employees above the $7.25 federal minimum hourly wage.

Peters, following the president's lead, ordered a Reuben sandwich and iced tea, quipping, "the president's buying" lunch.

"Gary is a cheap date," Obama responded.

Later in the speech, Peters was among a series of Michigan lawmakers whom Obama credited with fighting for his economic agenda.

"Here in Michigan, your senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, your representatives, John Dingell and John Conyers and Gary Peters, they are already on board," Obama said. "But every American deserves to know where their elected representatives stand on this choice."

Dingell, who Obama had earlier heralded as "legendary," was not in attendance. But Obama implored the crowd to give "a big round of applause" to his wife, Debbie, who plans to run for the seat being vacated by her husband.

Michigan presents one of the few opportunities for the president to offer a direct assist to Democratic candidates this fall. The state leans Democratic, has a significant African-American population, and Obama remains popular on the state's college campuses.

But other lawmakers facing tough reelection battles have looked to distance themselves from the president. The president's approval rating in a Quinnipiac poll released earlier this week was 42 percent, with half of voters disapproving of his handling of his job.

Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) did not travel with Obama on his recent visits to their home states. And Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) told CNN he was "not really interested in campaigning" with the president.

"What I'd like him to do is see why his policies are wrong on ANWR [Arctic National Wildlife Reserve] for example," Begich said. "He opposes oil and gas development. I'd like to show him why it's the right move to move that forward to create jobs in oil and gas."

"I'll drag him around. I'll show him whatever he wants to see," he continued. "But I want to convince him and show him that some of his policies are not the right direction. So I don't need him campaigning for me; I need him to change some of his policies."

White House officials have acknowledged that Obama would not be helpful to Democratic candidates in traditionally conservative states, but they say they hope to help those lawmakers through fundraising and the president's legislative agenda.

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