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Obama advocates for minimum wage hike

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Pressing his economic case in an election year, President Barack Obama came to Michigan on Wednesday to praise the state’s ongoing effort to raise the minimum wage – and to accuse Republicans who oppose that step in Michigan and in Congress of standing in the way of prosperity for millions of Americans.

An upbeat Obama struck a distinctly partisan tone at the University of Michigan, a day after his administration received an unexpected burst of good news when his health care law beat expectations for its first year of enrollment. Addressing a crowd of about 1,400 in a stadium that included many students, Obama cracked jokes about his GOP foes as he touted his plan to raise federal wages to $10.10 per hour.

President Barack Obama waves after speaking about the minimum wage Wednesday at the University of Michigan. (Carlos Osorio/The Associated Press)

President Barack Obama waves after speaking about the minimum wage Wednesday at the University of Michigan. (Carlos Osorio/The Associated Press)

“You’ve got a choice. You can give America the shaft, or you can give it a raise,” Obama said.

At Obama’s side for his three-hour visit to this Midwest battleground state was Rep. Gary Peters, a Senate candidate embracing the chance to appear with the president before voters this year. Some other Democrats have shied away from Obama amid controversy over his health care plan, but Peters opted to appear with Obama as the president echoed his State of the Union affirmation that no American working full time should live in poverty.

“It would lift millions of people out of poverty right away,” the president said of his proposal. “It would help millions more work their way out of poverty right away.”

Michigan also has an effort to put a measure on the November ballot to increase the state minimum wage from $7.40 to $10.10 an hour, an initiative that polling shows is popular among voters who have been hit hard by the economic downturn in recent years.

Nationally, Obama wants to increase the hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 as part of an election-year economic agenda focused on working families. The White House says that would benefit more than 970,000 workers in Michigan.

The Senate could vote on a bill to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 as early as next week.

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