Al Franken denies he's ducking Obama's St. Paul speech because of president's unpopularity [UPDATE]

Republicans think Obama is more of a curse than a blessing for local Dems these days.
Republicans think Obama is more of a curse than a blessing for local Dems these days.
Image by Tatiana Craine

:::: Al Franken missed Obama's speech for Harold Ramis's funeral ::::

:::: UPDATE III :::: This morning (February 26), we're told plans have changed again and Franken won't be in Minnesota today.

Franken's press secretary, Michael Dale-Stein, told us "Senator Franken was planning to travel to Minnesota for the President's event. But a close friend died, the funeral is today, and he decided he needed to hop on an early flight to be there. So he won't be able to make it to Minnesota for the President's visit."

:::: UPDATE II :::: Turns out Franken might be in St. Paul for Obama's speech after all.

Late this afternoon, Franken's press secretary, Michael Dale-Stein, got in touch to let us know that "Senator Franken is planning to join the President in Minnesota tomorrow so long as he is certain that the Senate will not be voting on the veterans' benefits bill that he's cosponsored."

:::: UPDATE :::: Klobuchar's office got in touch with us this afternoon to shed some more light on why she can't be at Obama's speech tomorrow.

"Tomorrow the senator is chairing a hearing on cell phone competition, including cell phone theft issues, which she cannot cancel," spokesperson Brigit Helgen told us. "That is why she will not be able to be in St. Paul for the event. Otherwise she would be with the President as she was just last month in Michigan for the Farm Bill signing."

Original post -- There's a good chance Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar won't be there when President Obama delivers a speech at St. Paul's Union Depot tomorrow.

SEE ALSO: Obama mocks Michele Bachmann's worry that Obamacare "literally kills women"

With Franken vying for reelection this year, his probable absence has fueled speculation he's staying away because he doesn't want to be tainted by Obama's unpopularity.

The latest Minnesota Poll indicates only 43 percent of Minnesotans approve of Obama's performance, compared to 50 percent who disapprove. The New York Daily News notes that those are Obama's worst-ever approval marks in the state.

Franken, meanwhile, enjoys a 55 percent approval rating, a number matching his highest-ever mark (though his disapproval rating has increased from 29 percent last June to 34 percent now).

This morning, the MNGOP, citing the polling, distributed a press release entitled, "Will Al Franken Snub our Increasingly Unpopular President Tomorrow?"

"Al Franken's record is a total rubber-stamping of President Obama's agenda," MNGOP Chairman Keith Downey said. "Between casting the deciding vote for the Obamacare debacle to supporting President Obama 100% of the time, why wouldn't Al Franken want to welcome the President to Minnesota?"

But reached for comment this morning, Franken's press secretary, Michael Dale-Stein, said that if Al is absent, it's about nothing more than scheduling conflicts.

(For more, click to page two.)

"Sen. Franken hopes he can join the President in Minnesota, but it's uncertain if his schedule will allow for travel since the Senate is in session," he told us.

Amy Klobuchar doesn't have an impending reelection campaign to worry about, but one of her staffers echoed Franken's reason for not flying back to Minnesota for Obama's speech.

"The Senate is in session and it's a pretty busy week here in D.C.," the Klobuchar staffer told us.

Meanwhile, the National Republican Congressional Committee is also trying to turn Obama's unpopularity into a campaign issue.

In a release distributed this morning entitled, "Will Collin Peterson Campaign With President Obama?" the NRCC calls on Peterson to invite the president to appear in Minnesota with him.

"Since the White House is gearing up for the 2014 election, Collin Peterson should take advantage and request the President come campaign with him," NRCC Communications Director Andrea Bozek said. "After all, Democrats have said they'll campaign on ObamaCare -- why not campaign with President Obama himself?"

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]

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