Obama rallies crowd for Malloy in Bridgeport
Bridgeport — In a scene that belied the low favorability ratings of the guest of honor and his host, President Barack Obama stoked Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s re-election campaign here Sunday, exhorting some 1,900 noisy partisans to vote like their futures depend on it when they go to the polls this week.
The president, standing at a podium on a raised platform in the middle of the Central High School gymnasium, spoke passionately for about 22 minutes despite being interrupted on several occasions by sign-waving protesters seeking action on immigration reform. Chanting “four more years,” the crowd drowned out the heckling each time.
“This is a rowdy crowd today,” Obama said after the second outburst.
With Malloy needing to scratch for every vote against his Republican nemesis, Tom Foley, the president’s appearance was designed to energize this Democratic bastion two days before Election Day — and two days after first lady Michelle Obama pursued a similar agenda in New Haven.
Just hours before a parade of state Democratic luminaries began taking to the podium prior to the president’s appearance, the complexion of the governor’s race changed somewhat when petitioning candidate Joe Visconti announced he was withdrawing his candidacy and throwing his support behind Foley, a fellow Republican.
Foley fell some 6,000 votes short of Malloy in the 2010 gubernatorial race, and recent polls have shown that Visconti was siphoning support from both of the major-party candidates.
“This question is, are we going to vote?” Obama shouted near the end of his remarks. “You can’t say Dan Malloy’s doing a good job and then not vote. Volunteer in these last days, knock on some doors. Don’t stay home. Don’t let somebody else choose your future for you.”
The president praised Malloy for leading Connecticut out of the Great Recession, much as he asserted he has done for the country.
“There has been progress here in Connecticut,” Obama said, citing the number of jobs created since Malloy was elected, state government’s embrace of the Affordable Care Act and the state legislature’s enactment of the toughest gun-control law in the country.
Malloy, who unlike some Democrats has never distanced himself from the president despite Obama’s waning popularity in his second term, was the first governor to heed Obama’s call for an increase in the minimum wage. Obama pointed out that under Malloy, Connecticut was also the first state to require employers to provide their workers with paid sick days.
Like the president, “Dan has the vision that prosperity never trickles down from the top,” Obama said. “This is personal for him. ... He was telling me about growing up with a learning disability. You don’t lose that sense of being an underdog.”
“Who’s going to fight for your future?” the president asked. “Not Republicans.”
The protesters who interrupted Obama were apparently advocates for passage of proposed federal legislation that would create a path to citizenship for immigrants.
“I’m sympathetic to those concerned about immigration,” Obama told the crowd after one of the protesters’ outbursts. “We’re a nation of immigrants. It’s the other party that’s blocked it.”
A lot of Republicans are “good folks,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean they have good ideas.”
Malloy, who took the podium before Obama, entered as the phrase “there ain’t no easy way out” from Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” played. He recalled how the president had visited the state in the wake of the Newtown school shootings in December 2012 and how Obama had supported his efforts to pursue a tough gun-control law.
“Make no mistake, this election is about how we responded (to Newtown),” the governor said. “I will never ever sign a repeal of that legislation.” Referring to Foley, his opponent, Malloy added, “Anyone who knows what happened and says it’s not about gun control doesn’t deserve to be governor.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal underscored the closeness of the gubernatorial contest, telling the crowd, “The number of people in this gym could decide this election.”
“Talk to your neighbors, talk to your friends,” Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said. “We can’t afford Tom Foolery.”
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