BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) — President Barack Obama urged a crowd of supporters Saturday to harness their excitement from the 2008 presidential election and turn out again in large numbers to back Connecticut’s Democratic candidates in the midterm election.
“When we won two years ago, that was just the start,” the Democratic president told the cheering crowd of about 9,000, who mostly filled the Arena at Harbor Yard. “That wasn’t about electing a president. It was about building a movement to change the country for the better.”
Obama’s visit to Connecticut’s most populous city was part of the national Democrats’ “Moving America Forward” get-out-the-vote campaign. Besides Connecticut, the president had stops in Philadelphia and Chicago on Saturday.
Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal, gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes — all facing tight races — addressed the racially mixed crowd, urging them to knock on doors and call their friends, family and neighbors to ask them to vote Democratic on Tuesday.
“It’s not good enough simply to vote,” Malloy said. “You must do everything in your power: Facebook, e-mail, communicate with every Democrat, every right-thinking independent voter and even those Republicans who are prepared to stand with us as we bring our state back.”
The theme Saturday was the importance of electing Democrats who will help Obama continue his work in the White House. Himes, elected to his first term in 2008 with strong support from Bridgeport voters who also backed Obama, said residents need to step up again to see his dream fulfilled.
“Though Barack Obama is not on the ballot, all that he stands for, all that he believes in, all that he seeks to accomplish for all of … those things are very, very much on the ballot,” Himes said.
Blumenthal spoke of the need to stop Republicans from retaking control of the Congress.
“I don’t know about you,” he said. “I’m not willing to go back.”
Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon criticized her opponent, Blumenthal, for attending the rally, saying it proved that “he’s a rubber stamp for the status quo.” While the latest Quinnipiac poll shows Blumenthal leading the former wrestling executive by double digits, McMahon maintains she is “closing at a frenetic pace.”
Elsa Obuchowski, a 57-year-old voter from Norwalk, said she’s been worried about Blumenthal losing to McMahon, who is on track to spend at least $50 million of her personal fortune on the race, but feels better because of the recent polls. Obuchowski, who has been making voter phone calls for Democratic candidates, said she is now more concerned for Himes because he’s been targeted in negative ads and mailings.
“I’ve run into a number of people on the phone who say, ‘Oh no, I won’t vote for Jim Himes because he cut Medicare,”‘ she said. “Well, he didn’t cut Medicare, but they get this mailer and see what it says and they don’t check out the facts, they just go into a panic when they read that.”
Charles Tisdale, executive director of a community action development agency in Bridgeport, said he was worried about low voter turnout in Bridgeport a couple weeks ago but now feels more confident given the efforts by area ministers who’ve held rallies attended by 800 to 1,000 people.
“I think that the Democrats will have a sweep, but it’s going to be close,” he said.
Obama’s speech on Saturday was interrupted for several minutes when a group of public health, law and medical students from Harvard and Yale began shouting, demanding the U.S. keep its promise to fund global AIDS initiatives. The group was shouted down by chants of “Obama!”
Obama told the students, who were later escorted out of the arena, that Democrats are more likely to support their cause than Republicans are.
“We’re funding global AIDS and the other side is not,” Obama said.
Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, who was the master of ceremonies for the rally, said despite the discontent many voters are feeling this year, Obama has made progress in enacting major changes to the health care system and passing financial reforms.
“In a little over 18 months, this country is turning around,” he said.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)