As midterms near, Obama works to re-ignite 2008 enthusiasm in Philadelphia
Monday, October 11, 2010; 1:14 AM
PHILADELPHIA - President Obama pressed his case Sunday to a crowd that packed into a park here, urging them to defy the conventional wisdom that they will not show up at the polls in November the way they did two years ago.
"I want everybody to understand our victory in that campaign," he said. "That wasn't the end of the road. That was just the beginning of the road. That was just the start of the journey. By itself, it does not deliver the change that we need.
"I'm back here two years later because our job is not yet done, and the success of our mission is at stake right now. On November 2nd, I need you as fired up as you were in 2008, because we've got a lot of work ahead of us."
Philadelphia has been the backdrop for pivotal moments in Obama's political career. It's where he delivered his race speech, where he had one of his toughest debates against Hillary Rodham Clinton, and where he drew one of his biggest crowds in the days before the presidential election.
"We must have seen 80,000 to 100,000 people that day" over multiple stops, Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D) said. "It was unbelievable."
That was a lifetime ago in politics. Now Rendell, once very popular and a huge asset in delivering Pennsylvania's 21 delegates to Obama, has approval ratings in the mid-30s, mirroring Obama's ratings in the state.
Overall, however, Obama remains popular with his base, and thousands turned out Sunday.
The hip-hop band the Roots warmed up the crowd before Vice President Biden and Obama took the stage, offering a throwback to the concertlike vibe of rallies past.
Yet whatever enthusiasm and loyalty Obama brings, it has not been evident in statewide races. Democratic candidates in Senate and gubernatorial races have been lagging in polls for weeks.
"I'm not willing to say that the Democrats cannot win the statewide races - I won't go there," said G. Terry Madonna, who heads the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College and has conducted polls on the contests. "Will they win? Probably not."
Obama has tried to close the enthusiasm gap with the GOP over the past few weeks by re-engaging with the young and urban voters who were critical to his winning presidential campaign.
Democrats have been betting that such rallies, ripped from Obama's 2008 playbook, will remind voters of that enthusiasm and prod them to support Democratic candidates at the polls.