PHILADELPHIA — President Obama urged Democrats to overcome the
spending power of conservative and business groups by going to the
polls in the same numbers as 2008.
“If everybody who fought so hard for change in 2008 shows up to vote in 2010, I’m absolutely confident we will win, and most of the polls say the same thing,” the president said Sunday at a rally in Philadelphia. “What the other side is counting on … is you’re going to stay home.
Obama referenced the recent Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, which removed campaign finance restrictions for business groups and labor organizations.
Republicans, he said, “are being helped along this year by special interest groups that are spending unlimited amounts of money on attack ads, attacking folks like [Rep.] Patrick Murphy [D-Pa.], attacking folks like [Pennsylvania Senate candidate] Joe Sestak [D] … without ever disclosing who is behind all these attack ads,” he said. “It could be the oil industry, it could be the insurance industry, it could even be foreign-owned corporations. You don’t know because they don’t have to disclose.”
Crossroads GPS was just one conservative advocacy group that had ads criticizing Sestak that played in the Philadelphia media market ahead of the president’s visit.
In warm afternoon sunshine, a large crowd gathered in a schoolyard in the working-class neighborhood of Germantown to hear from Obama and Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's 12:30 Report Overnight Regulation: Biz groups push reg reform in new Congress Dem urges Biden to run for DNC chair MORE, who were in town for a rare joint appearance in support of Sestak.
The president has been increasingly active on the campaign trail in recent weeks as polls show his party could lose control of Congress in November. The Philadelphia rally was geared toward turning out young voters — a key part of his 2008 base — and featured a performance by The Roots, a Philadelphia hip-hop group.
Obama acknowledged voters were “frustrated” with the economy.
“Of course people are frustrated, of course people are impatient with the pace of change, and believe me, so am I,” he said. “No matter how angry you get, no matter how frustrated you are, the other side has decided to ride that frustration and anger without offering any solutions.
“They spent the last 20 months saying no,” Obama said. “Even to policies that they supported in the past. They said no to middle-class tax cuts, they said no to help for small businesses; they said no to a bipartisan deficit-reduction committee that they had once co-sponsored.”
He said pundits were predicting a low Democratic turnout.
say all y’all are going to stay home,” he said. “They say you might not
care as much. … Well, Philadelphia, I think the pundits are wrong. I
think we’re going to win, but you got to prove ‘em wrong."
Obama criticized the Republicans’ “Pledge to America” — the party’s major policy blueprint — as the “same old stuff” the GOP has “been peddling for years.”
“It turns out that the pledge was actually written in part by a former lobbyist for AIG and Exxon Mobil, that should tell you something right there, you can’t make that stuff up,” Obama said in reference to a report that Brian Wild, a Republican staffer and former lobbyist, was listed as an author of a draft version of the document. Obama used a similar line of attack during a recent speech in Wisconsin.
Speaking before the president and vice president, Sestak urged the crowd to support his campaign as a way to carry on the legacy of Obama’s 2008 election.
“Remember, people don’t vote once for change, you keep fighting for change,” said Sestak, who is trailing Republican rival Pat Toomey in recent polls. “We must ensure that this election two years ago doesn’t go wasted.”
City officials estimated the crowd at 18,500 people, many of whom were from local unions. Carnell Williams, an electrician, said he turned out to help “get another Democrat in office.”
“This whole event here is going to help [Sestak],” Williams said, “just making people aware.”
Gov. Ed Rendell (D) was one of several Pennsylvania officials who warmed up the crowd. He characterized the midterm elections as a life-and-death struggle.
"What's the best way to prevent [Republicans] from tearing down the president?” Rendell said. “It's a four-letter word. Vote like your life depends on it — because, you know, it just might."