Obama stumps for Patrick in Boston rally Saturday

By Sam Butterfield

President Barack Obama paid a visit to Massachusetts Saturday, speaking at a rally supporting incumbent Governor Deval Patrick, who is locked in an extremely tight reelection race against Republican opponent Charles Baker.

The free event drew an estimated 15,000 attendees to the Hynes Convention Center in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, according to a Sunday release from Patrick spokesman Patrick Roath.

The rally was held primarily to forge enthusiasm for Patrick and lieutenant governor Tim Murray’s reelection campaign, and in the hopes of spurring a “get out the vote” effort from Patrick’s supporters.

At the rally, some 7,500 new volunteers signed up to campaign for the Governor in the final weeks leading up to the election, according to the Oct. 17 release.

Before Obama took the floor around 1:30 p.m., Gov. Patrick delivered opening remarks, encouraging his base to mobilize to help catalyze his reelection bid.

“Policy only matters at the point where it touches people, and politics is most meaningful at the grassroots,” he said. “That’s why Tim Murray and I are out talking with people every day about the choices before us as a Commonwealth, and building a grassroots network stronger than ever.”

The President encouraged Massachusetts residents to get involved in the reelection effort.

“This will be the largest get-out-the-vote operation in the history of this state, but only if you do your part,” said Obama.

In encouraging voter organization, Obama harped back to the grassroots campaign which propelled Patrick to the State House in 2006, telling the Boston crowd they needed to work towards the same goal they had then.

“The reason this is important is because all of you got involved in 2006 and 2008 because you believed that we’re at a defining moment in our history,” he told the crowd. “You believed this is a time when the decisions we make about the challenges we face, they’re not just going to affect us. They’re going to affect the lives of our children, and our grandchildren, and our great grandchildren.”

Obama also echoed a theme he has spouted on the campaign trail across the country this year: that Republican leadership put America into the economic downturn from which it is still struggling to recover, and Democrats need more time to rectify the issues they faced upon assuming a majority in 2006 and then 2008.

“Between 2001 and 2009, we saw the most sluggish job growth since World War II,” he said. “If [Republicans] win this election, a chair of the Republican Party has already promised that they’d pursue the same agenda.”

The Nov. 2 gubernatorial election, now just 15 days away, promises to be one of the tightest races in recent memory. A Sept. 30 Boston Globe poll had Patrick slightly edging Baker, with 35 percent of likely voters’ support to Baker’s 34 and Independent Tim Cahill drawing 11. Those numbers, however, provide a rather incomplete forecast of a hypothetical election, as the poll’s margin of error of 4.5 percent means either candidate could be in the lead.

A more recent Oct. 10 poll from Suffolk University and Boston’s NBC 7 News found more encouraging results for Patrick, who has been in office on Beacon Hill since 2006, when he handily defeated Republican opponent Kerry Healey. In the sample of 500 likely Commonwealth voters, 24 percent coming from Worcester and points west, 35 percent from the northeast corner of the state, eight percent from Boston and 33 percent from southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod, 44 percent of respondents said they would vote or are leaning towards voting for Patrick. 37 percent said they were leaning towards or would definitely vote for Charles Baker, while 10 percent said they would support Cahill, currently the state treasurer, and one percent said they were leaning towards or planned to vote for Green-Rainbow candidate Jill Stein.

The Suffolk poll, however, produced one curious finding. Respondents overwhelmingly said that if they were hypothetically asked to vote immediately, they would choose Baker. 31 percent of respondents said that if they were in the ballot booth at the moment of being questioned, they would vote Baker, while just 15 percent were so sure of Patrick.

Despite a prevailing anti-incumbent sentiment sweeping across the country this election cycle, Massachusetts voters still seem to believe Patrick is best equipped to be governor, according to the Suffolk Poll. While 51 percent of respondents said Massachusetts is headed in the wrong direction right now, compared to just 36 percent who believed the Bay State is headed the right way, 45 percent said they approve of the job Gov. Patrick has done, compared to 44 who said they disapprove.

In other areas, Patrick seems to harbor a slight advantage in voters’ trust. 38 percent believe he would do the best job improving the state’s economy of the four candidates in the race, while 34 percent believed Baker would. Baker, who has used his record as an executive at Harvard Pilgrim health care to argue he would best create jobs and handle the state’s economy, leads in voters’ opinion of who can best stimulate the state’s economy. 35 percent said he would create jobs better than other candidates, while 31 percent believed Patrick would. This could be a key point of contention, as the Patrick campaign is making his administration’s record on job growth a pivotal point of its reelection bid.

“Because of our hard work, Massachusetts is recovering from the recession and creating jobs faster than the rest of the nation,” Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray told a group of college reporters last Tuesday. “Our investments in jobs, education and health care have led to real results – and we now lead the nation in educational achievement for our students and health care coverage for our residents.”

In terms of likability and political savvy, voters certainly favored Patrick. 44 percent said he has the best temperament to be governor, compared to 20 for Baker, and 38 percent said he had run the best campaign, with 23 percent responding that Baker had.

Regardless of their political preferences, Bay State residents seem to believe the political winds won’t change this fall. 53 percent of the Suffolk poll’s respondents said they expect Patrick to be reelected this November, compared to 31 percent for Baker and two percent who believe Cahill will prevail.
While Obama’s presence has generally helped candidates fighting testy reelection battles in solidly blue states, it failed to deliver one key seat here in Massachusetts earlier this year. In January, Obama visited Boston to promote then-Democratic senatorial candidate Martha Coakley’s campaign in the special election to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Edward M. Kennedy in 2009. Despite the President’s popularity and appeal in Massachusetts, voters chose Republican Scott Brown to fill the seat.

Sam Butterfield can be reached at [email protected]