In a last-ditch effort to rescue her sinking campaign, state Attorney General Martha Coakley called on President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton to energize democratic voters a few days before the election.
Facing unfavorable poll numbers — some putting her neck and neck with Republican state Sen. Scott Brown and others putting her a few points behind him — Coakley needed a shot of adrenalin in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 3 to 1.
With President Obama’s health care reform bill needing one more vote to pass in the U.S. Senate, Tuesday’s state election was expected to be a referendum of sorts on his first year in office. Coakley has pledged to support the bill, while Brown has promised to vote against it.
Since this election will determine the balance of power in Washington, Obama and Clinton came out not just to rally for Coakley, but for health care reform as well. Clinton spoke last Friday at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel before a crowd of about 750. “Should we have a health care system that insures more people, preserves choice, and controls cost?” the former president asked. “Or should we continue to let the status quo prevail, which is choking the lifeblood out of this economy?”
The current health care system is “killing our economy; it’s costing us jobs; it’s costing us pay raises; it’s killing the average American family, because we’re wasting, wasting, wasting money. Thirty percent of every dollar goes to paperwork.”
Acknowledging, “we’re going to have to work on this [health care reform] for years,” Clinton said that right now, “the worst thing we can do is nothing.”
Clinton also spoke about the humanitarian crisis in Haiti, the economy and the importance of accountability in government.
Two days later, Obama spoke to a crowd of about 1,500 in a Northeastern University gymnasium, while thousands of supporters lined the streets, unable to enter the venue. The president discussed his entire agenda — from economic recovery to health care — touting Coakley as someone who can help him push his policies forward.
“I need leaders like Martha by my side, so we can kick it into high gear, so we can finish what we started,” Obama said.
Speaking about health care reform, Obama reminded the audience of the stakes of this election. “We know that on many of the major questions of our day, a lot of these measures are going to rest on one vote in the United States Senate,” he said. “That’s why the opponents of change and progress have been pouring money and resources into the commonwealth, in hopes of promoting gridlock and failure.”
Obama also drew upon the legacy of U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, whose death last August opened the Senate seat.
“The only thing he loved more than the people of this commonwealth was serving the people of this commonwealth,” the president said. “Ted Kennedy was always on your side in so many of the battles that led this commonwealth and this nation forward.”
Also stumping for Coakley this weekend were Sen. John Kerry; Gov. Deval Patrick; Vicki Kennedy, wife of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, whom Coakley defeated in the Democratic primary.
Kerry blasted Brown for “pledging to become the 41st vote to destroy the lifetime work of Senator Ted Kennedy.” Brown’s vote against the health care reform would provide the exact number of votes necessary to block the bill in the Senate.
Coakley herself also emphasized health care, saying at last Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast, “I know that he [MLK] would be standing with us on the front line for health care, not as a privilege, but as a right, as Ted Kennedy often said.”
Promising to stand on the side of “families just like mine and just like yours,” Coakley told the crowd of more than 1,000 people that she would hold Wall Street accountable, and fight for the unemployed and uninsured.
Seeing these battles as part of Kennedy’s legacy, she said, “I need your help following in his huge footsteps.”
Not all the talk was serious as many took shots at the campaign ads of Brown driving a truck throughout the state.
Coakley ended one of her talks by quipping, “Just because you’re driving around in a truck, doesn’t mean you’re going in the right direction.”
Sen. Kerry joined in the bashing. “I’ve got news for you, Scott, George Bush drove a truck too,” Kerry said.
Obama also couldn’t resist, telling the audience that in the midst of the financial crisis, “he decided to park his truck on Wall Street.”
While Coakley brought in high-profile Democrats to support her during the eleventh hour of her campaign, Brown attempted to distance himself from the Republican establishment and George Bush by calling himself an “independent.”
Stumping for Brown this weekend were former Mayor Rudy Guiliani, NFL quarterback Doug Flutie, television actor John Ratzenberger and Brown’s daughter Ayla, a former “American Idol” contestant.