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“Minnesota sent 19 athletes to the games,” he said to loud cheers, adding, “They did us all proud.”

And he singled out a community in far northwestern Minnesota where hockey is a way of life.

“Once again the tiny town of Warroad proved it’s Hockey Town U.S.A.,” he said, naming Warroad High School graduates T.J. Oshie and Gigi Marvin, who were stars on the U.S. men’s and women’s hockey teams, respectively. He paid tribute to Oshie for securing a shootout victory in the U.S. game against Russia.

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Republicans tried to score political points by highlighting the absence of leading Minnesota Democratic officeholders at Obama’s appearance, targeting Sen. Al Franken, who’s running for re-election this fall.

McCollum and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minneapolis, accompanied Obama to Minnesota on board Air Force One. But Franken did not. His spokesman, Michael Dale-Stein, said Franken had planned to make the trip but needed to attend a friend’s funeral.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges - both Democrats - greeted Obama as he got off Air Force One at the airport.

Minnesota GOP Chairman Keith Downey accused Franken of distancing himself from the president.

“Al Franken’s record is a total rubber-stamping of President Obama’s agenda,” Downey said in a statement. “Between casting the deciding vote for the Obamacare debacle to supporting President Obama 100 percent of the time, why wouldn’t Al Franken want to welcome the President to Minnesota?”

A Star Tribune Minnesota Poll published last week put Franken’s approval rating in the state at 55 percent, compared with 58 percent for Gov. Mark Dayton and 43 percent for Obama.

Dayton did not attend the event either, but it’s because he’s recovering from hip surgery.

U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., said he planned to pose a series of unanswered questions via his Twitter account in response to Obama’s visit.

“Minnesotans keep telling me they have had enough and they can no longer bear the burden of failed policies and a weak economy,” Kline said in a statement.

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About two dozen climate change activists rallied in the frigid cold outside Union Depot to urge Obama to reject the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline and protest the expanded use of Canadian tar sands oil.

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