DETROIT — Yelling out a populist theme until his voice turned hoarse, President Barack Obama on Saturday urged Michigan voters in the midterm campaign's final weekend to cast ballots for Democrats who support a higher minimum wage.
In an election trending toward Republicans amid low job approval for Obama, the president has been kept at arm's length by struggling Democrats. Saturday evening's rally before 6,000 at a packed Wayne State University gymnasium gave Obama a rare appearance with a Senate candidate, Michigan front-runner Gary Peters.
"I want you to feel a sense of urgency these last three days," Obama told voters as he touted Peters and gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer. He said corporations and the wealthy don't need a champion in Washington. "You do."
Obama stood between Peters and Schauer, holding both their hands aloft in a victory pose before the crowd in the country's blackest city, with minority turnout considered the key to Democratic hopes. He led them in a call and response, "When we vote," Obama shouted, and the crowd shouted back, "We win!"
Obama joked that Republicans are nice people, the kind you'd want to have over for Thanksgiving, but that they can't be trusted to run things.
Polls show Peters with a comfortable lead over Republican former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land in the race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Carl Levin. Land began a "Stop Obama" bus tour Saturday morning, with 17 stops planned over three days. She said Obama's policies were not working in her state.
Schauer, a former congressman, faces a more uncertain outcome in his challenge against Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, with polls showing the Democrat trailing or in a dead heat. Schauer has been trying to use Obama's successful voter database to turn out some of the nearly 1 million Michigan Democrats who tend to stay home in gubernatorial races.
"It's a known fact that there are more Democrats in Michigan than there are Republicans, so the president is going to come in and remind voters why they need to vote," said Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Lon Johnson, who has sent out more than 1 million absentee ballot applications. "Who better to make the case that your vote is important than the president who carried Michigan twice?"
Associated Press writer David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan, contributed to this report. Follow Nedra Pickler on Twitter at https://twitter.com/nedrapickler