At rally for O'Malley, Obama urges voters to reelect 'a great governor'

President Obama joined Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley on Thursday in Bowie, Md. for a rally that attracted a number of the president's core supporters.
By Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 7, 2010; 10:27 PM

President Barack Obama on Thursday exhorted a sea of mostly black, young supporters in Prince George's County - who broke into chants of "Obama!" and "We've got your back!" - not to make him "look bad" by failing to turn out next month to reelect Gov. Martin O'Malley and a slate of Maryland Democrats to Congress.

"What the other side is counting on is that this time around, you are going to stay home. They are counting on your silence, they are counting on amnesia, they are counting on your apathy, especially the young people here," Obama said. "They figure Obama's not on the ballot - you're not going to come out and vote. Well, Maryland, you have got to prove them wrong."

Obama lavished praise on "Martin," calling O'Malley one of the best governors in the nation and saying Marylanders should be excited to go to the polls for a governor he said is - like himself - "rock solid" in his commitment to education and tirelessly fighting for working-class families.

"Martin's been a great governor for a great state, which is why I hope you're fired up in these last few weeks," Obama said.

But in Prince George's, where Obama's approval rating is 85 percent, it was clearly far more Obama's star power than excitement about the midterms that drew people to the rally. And for Obama, the return to Bowie State University - where four years ago he signed autographs and captivated a crowd of hundreds - seemed more like an hour-long political oasis. An estimated 7,000 people, mostly college students and supporters who said they counted themselves true believers, packed in around a stage built in the center of campus.

At times, the crowd's adulation for Obama overshadowed his advocacy for O'Malley.

Screams of "We love you, Obama!" interrupted the president twice.

"I love you, back," he said at one point, "but I want to talk about this election now." He paused to point out to paramedics two of the dozen or so audience members who fainted. Thousands had walked a mile or more from parking areas, stood in line and waited hours on the sun-drenched quad for Obama to speak.

'Two distinct things'

Willistine Page, a retired U.S. State Department personnel officer from Clinton, said it was entirely Obama who drew her to the rally.

"I want to continually support Obama," said Page, an African American who attended the president's inauguration last year. "I think it's important we stick with him in good times and bad times."

She said she arrived less enthused about O'Malley. "The president and the governor are two distinct things, of course they are." But Page said that after hearing Obama's praise for O'Malley, she was inclined to consider volunteering for his campaign. "It makes me want to be more active," she said.

Ditto for Narae Wright, 17, a Bowie State freshman from Suitland. Along with her friends Ishalay White, 17, of Fort Washington and Jyla Wooten, 18, of Upper Marlboro, Wright waited more than three hours outside for Obama. There was no question that if he had not come to campus they would not have come out, they said. "He was powerful, inspirational," Wooten said. "Not too many people come here and say to us on a daily basis to follow our dreams," she said, adding that she would take his urgings to heart and vote Nov. 2.

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