President Barack Obama, worried that his push for healthcare reform is in mortal danger, decided Friday to travel to Massachusetts to aid Democrat Martha Coakley, who’s locked in a close battle with GOP opponent Scott Brown in the race for Ted Kennedy’s seat in the Senate.
But former President Bill Clinton is already in the Bay State to campaign for Coakley ahead of Tuesday’s special election, which is crucial to Democrats if they are to maintain their 60-vote majority in the Senate.
Obama sent a letter praising Massachusetts Attorney General Coakley to his massive campaign e-mail list, and he released a videotaped message on Thursday in support of his fellow Democrat's contest with Brown, a state senator.
Late Friday afternoon, the White House confirmed speculation that the president would appear at a campaign event in Massachusetts on Sunday.
When asked why Obama finally decided to make the trip north, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs simply said: "He got invited."
Obama won 62 percent of the vote in Massachusetts in 2008, and he's hoping his popularity there could be enough to propel Coakley to victory on Tuesday.
“But there are risks,” the Boston Globe observed. “If Obama visits Massachusetts and Coakley loses, it would signal that Obama’s ability to motivate rank-and-file Democrats has slipped. It would buoy Republican efforts to take back the House and the Senate this fall. And it could fuel criticism that he made a political trip while pressing issues awaited in Washington.
Democratic consultant Peter Fenn told the Globe: ”You’re caught between a rock and a hard place here. If you go to campaign, you’re accused of leaving healthcare and Haiti. If you don’t do it, you’re accused of leaving a Senate seat on the table. This is a no-win either way.”
Democrats are hoping that Bill Clinton also will give Coakley a boost. The ex-president made an appearance, along with Sen. John Kerry, at a Coakley rally Friday afternoon in Boston.
"You just have to decide if you want to pick the person who gets to shut America down," he told voters.
Coakley's campaign issued a statement quoting her as saying, "I am honored to have President Clinton’s and Senator Kerry’s support. President Clinton oversaw one of the great periods of economic expansion in our nation’s history, and we cannot afford to return back to the same failed economic policies of George Bush and Dick Cheney that led our country into the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.”
Clinton remains very popular in Massachusetts and has “a magical ability to motivate voters here,” Charles Stewart, a political scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the Monitor.
And U.S. Rep. Edward Markey said: “Bill Clinton is a rock star in Massachusetts. The Democratic base now has the activating fluid” to get out the vote.
The Republicans also are trotting out a big gun to help their candidate: Former New York City Mayor and presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani is campaigning with Brown in the Boston area.
"His election, I believe will send a signal — and a very dramatic one — that we're going in the wrong direction on terrorism," Giuliani said Friday.
A Rasmussen Reports poll on Tuesday showed Coakley with 49 percent of the vote and Brown with 47 percent.
But a Suffolk University/7News survey released Thursday found that 50 percent of likely voters favor Brown, compared with 46 percent for Coakley.
Whoever wins on Tuesday could be sworn in in time to vote on the final version of the healthcare reform bill. Coakley has vowed to support the bill, and her victory would maintain the Democrats’ 60-vote majority enabling them to override a GOP filibuster.
Brown, on the other hand, has pledged to be the 41st vote needed to defeat the reform plan.
The Globe noted: “The possibility that a Republican could claim the seat held by Edward M. Kennedy for 47 years has energized both campaigns.”
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