Obama leads Bridgeport Democratic rally

President Obama, center, greets supporters after addressing the crowd at the "Moving America Forward- Get Out the Vote" rally in the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010.
President Obama, center, greets supporters after addressing the crowd at the "Moving America Forward- Get Out the Vote" rally in the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010. Abigail Pheiffer/The Day

Bridgeport - President Barack Obama got a rock star's greeting at the Arena at Harbor Yard Saturday as 10,000 people stood and shouted "Yes we can" until he asked them to stop.

He had come to town to ask them to repeat what they did in 2008, when the people of Bridgeport came out in record numbers to elect U.S. Rep. Jim Himes and, of course, him, "a skinny guy with a funny name."

Obama acknowledged that the nation's still struggling and pointed out that it has been no thanks to any help from the Republicans who, he said, "drove the car into the ditch."

Since he took office, Obama said, inheriting a trillion dollar debt and a broken economy, the Republicans have obstructed efforts to repair the damage.

Meanwhile, they tried to blame the Democrats for the mess they had made.

"In other words, they were counting on amnesia as a political strategy," Obama said. "We had a different strategy: Let's fix the problem."

"We've still got a long way to go," he said, and that is why the people of Bridgeport need to vote and tell everyone they know to vote for the Democrats on Tuesday.

The rally brought together celebrities, the president and Democratic candidates. "We're faced," hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons said, "with a moment where we have to live up to our own promise. It takes hard work, resilience and faith. You're all here because you still believe in the dream."

The crowd roared.

"We have to keep the team in office so we can execute our promises," Simmons said.

And then, after a prayer, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch bounded up on the stage.

"Guess who's coming to dinner?" he shouted.

A year after he was elected, Finch said, the economy collapsed. A year after that, "the cavalry marched in: Jim Himes and Barack Obama!...The stimulus is working!"


With national polls showing that Democrats are likely to lose control of the House, and local polls showing that two seats in Connecticut are threatened, the President was coming to encourage those who voted for him in 2008 to, in essence, vote for him again.

And Bridgeport is particularly critical to the hopes of Jim Himes to win reelection in the 4th District. The most recent polls show him neck and neck with Dan Debicella.

Some pollsters are saying Himes needs some 30,000 voters to turn out in this city to counter the votes his Republican opponent is likely to get in the rest of Fairfield County.

If the kind of crowd that was waiting outside, shivering in a brisk wind off Long Island Sound, is any indication of Obama's power to produce those numbers, then they may well come through on election night.

The other race Obama is coming to support is that of the 5th District's Chris Murphy, who is running for a third term against Republican challenger Sam Caligiuri. It's another race that's so close that the lead is less than the polls' margins of error.

The Pastor Deborah Hardey of the Emmanuel Cathedral of Bridgeport said she and many members of her congregation were here because "we can make a difference."

"We support our president," she said. "We support Jim Himes. We feel that he's a real great candidate, and we being clergy we'll be able to spread the word and make sure people get out to vote. We're here for a reason."

"When people see us move forward, we can encourage them to come out and vote," said Joan Phang, a member of the church.
She and other members of the church will be going door to door on election day, she said.

Richard Blumenthal, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, lower left, and gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy,  right, wait for President Barack Obama to arrive at a rally for Democratic candidates in Bridgeport Saturday afternoon, Oct. 30, 2010.
Richard Blumenthal, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, lower left, and gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy, right, wait for President Barack Obama to arrive at a rally for Democratic candidates in Bridgeport Saturday afternoon, Oct. 30, 2010. Stephen Savoia/AP Photo
Vincent Carrafiello, left, of Monroe, and his sister, Joan Carrafiello, of Shelton, cheer as one of the speakers energizes the crowd at the
Vincent Carrafiello, left, of Monroe, and his sister, Joan Carrafiello, of Shelton, cheer as one of the speakers energizes the crowd at the "Moving America Forward- Get Out the Vote" rally in the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010 Abigail Pheiffer/The Day
President Barack Obama makes a final get-out-the-vote push for Democratic candidates in Bridgeport, Conn., Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010, just two days before the crucial midterm election.
President Barack Obama makes a final get-out-the-vote push for Democratic candidates in Bridgeport, Conn., Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010, just two days before the crucial midterm election. J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo
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