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Obama stumps for Coakley in nail-biting Mass. special election

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Sunday, January 17, 2010 17:56 EDT
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Watch (below): President’s speech interrupted by heckler

BOSTON, Massachusetts — President Barack Obama stumped Sunday for the Democratic candidate in Massachusetts’ knife-edge Senate election, saying that his legislative agenda depended on her winning.

The seat, which was occupied by Edward Kennedy for almost five decades before his death in August, was considered a Democratic stronghold. But candidate Martha Coakley finds herself struggling ahead of Tuesday’s vote against Republican opponent Scott Brown.

A win by Brown would strip the Democrats of their 60th Senate seat, meaning their majority was no longer big enough to easily override Republican opposition to Obama’s bitterly fought health care reforms and other major projects.

“A lot of these measures are going to rest on one vote in the United States Senate,” Obama told a noisy Coakley rally in Boston.

“That’s why the opponents of change and progress have been pouring money in,” he said. “They want to keep things as they are.”

A heckler interrupted Obama provoking loud boos from the crowd at Northeastern University before the president was able to continue.

The incident reflected the passionate and sometimes ugly nature of the partisan divide a year after Obama took office.

Obama said the country was “in tough times” and acknowledged that “people are frustrated and they’re angry and they have every right to be.”

Then he attacked those — including Brown — who he said are “eager to exploit that pain and anger.”

“There are always folks who think that the best way to solve these problems are to demonize others and unfortunately we are seeing some of that politics in Massachusetts today.”

One poll put Coakley well ahead, but a Suffolk University poll released late Thursday had Brown ahead with 50-46.

Pollsters say the result may well depend on turnout, with low participation favoring Brown.

Obama spent just two hours in Boston and analysts were not convinced that his intervention would be enough to turn the tide.

Republicans tout their Massachusetts surge as evidence of dissatisfaction with Obama’s agenda, particularly health care, and a sign of heavy gains likely to be scored in nationwide mid-term elections to Congress this November.

“This is, in effect, a referendum on the national health care bill, which the Democrats, in secret, are trying to work out now,” said US Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

The health care debate “electrified the country,” he told Fox News television. “All of a sudden, they realize there is an election somewhere in the country where you can have an impact on it.”

Leading pollster Scott Rasmussen called a Brown victory a “long-shot, low-turnout scenario,” adding that the dynamics of the race “still make it likely that Massachusetts voters on January 19 will send another Democrat to Washington.”

But even if the Democrats win, the fact Obama felt he had to campaign at the last hour reflects serious worries in the party.

Obama advisor David Axelrod denies that there is any panic. Obama is going because “he was asked.”

“I don’t think that the president makes decisions out of fear. He makes decisions based on what he thinks is right. He thinks that Martha Coakley would be a much better representative for everyday people in Massachusetts,” Axelrod said Friday.

“That’s an important election in Massachusetts. It’s obviously a competitive one.”

But Politico website said Obama may face humiliating failure on Tuesday.

“With the political winds at the back of Republican Scott Brown, pollsters tracking the Massachusetts Senate race are skeptical that President Obama’s Boston rally on Sunday will be enough to put Democrat Martha Coakley over the top,” the website said.

This video was broadcast by Fox News on Jan. 17, 2010, as snipped by Mediaite.

With AFP.

 
 
 
 
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