January 17th, 2010
05:14 PM ET
11 years ago

With health bill at risk, Obama rallies Massachusetts Dems


President Obama campaigned with fellow Democrat Martha Coakley in Boston Sunday.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) - President Barack Obama tried to rally voters behind the Democratic candidate Sunday in a surprisingly close Senate race in Massachusetts, a contest that could imperil his plans to overhaul the U.S. health care system.

Obama flew to Boston to stump for Martha Coakley, who is trying to fend off a strong campaign by Republican state Sen. Scott Brown to keep the seat held for decades by liberal lion Ted Kennedy in Democratic hands.

"We know that on many of the major questions of our day, a lot of these measures are going to rest on one vote in the United States Senate," Obama said. "That's why the opponents of change and progress have been pouring money and resources in the commonwealth in hopes of promoting gridlock and failure."

Brown has pledged to vote against Democratic efforts to expand health care, which Kennedy once called "the cause of my life." A GOP victory would give Senate Republicans the votes to stop the bill through a filibuster, a tactic they have employed routinely since Democrats won control of Congress in 2006.

Brown told supporters Sunday afternoon that electing him would be "a message that will be heard around the country."

"I want to be the person to go down there and send the health care (bill) back to its drawing board, so they can do it better," he said. "And when they're talking about raising your taxes and they're talking about raising the debt ceiling and they're talking about all those things, at least we can debate it in a transparent manner, not behind closed doors."

Polls published in the last week of the race show Brown and Coakley in a dead heat, worrying Obama and Democrats about the possibility of losing what once was considered one of their safest seats. Speaking at a Coakley rally at Northeastern University, Obama told state voters, "We need you on Tuesday."

"Understand what's at stake here, Massachusetts," he said. "It's whether we're going forward or going backwards. It's whether we're going to have a future where everybody gets a shot in this society, or just the privileged few. If you were fired up in the last election, I need you more fired up in this election."

Obama's remarks were briefly interrupted by a heckler who opposed Obama's support of abortion rights. The man was removed from the auditorium after the crowd drowned him out with chants of "Martha, Martha."

And Vicki Kennedy, the late senator's widow, called on state Democrats to turn out to save her husband's legacy.

"We need your help. We need your support. We need you to get out there and vote on Tuesday," Kennedy said. "We need you to bring your neighbors. We need you to bring your friends."

Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 3-to-1 in Massachusetts, a state Obama carried by 26 percentage points in 2008. But a Suffolk University/7 News poll released Thursday night indicated that 50
percent of likely voters backed Brown, compared to 46 percent support for Coakley. Another 3 percent of people questioned back Joseph Kennedy, a third party candidate running as a libertarian who is not related to the late senator.

"It's extremely close in the most liberal, the bluest state in America," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said on "FOX News Sunday." McConnell said even if Coakley wins to allow the Democrats to pass the health care bill with their 60-seat filibuster proof Senate majority, the close race shows that most Americans dislike the legislation and want to see it defeated, McConnell said.

"I think the politics are toxic for the government either way," McConnell said of the health care bill. "Either way, whether it passes or it fails, it will be a huge issue not just in 2010 but in 2012."

The seat is currently held by former Kennedy aide and longtime friend Paul Kirk, who was appointed to the seat on an interim basis after the 77-year-old Kennedy died of brain cancer in August. Massachusetts Secretary of State Bill Galvin, a Democrat, said this week that certifying Tuesday's election results could take more than two weeks - potentially enough time to allow congressional Democrats time to pass a final health care bill before Brown is seated.

Republicans blasted the timetable, accusing Democrats of trying to stifle the will of the voters. On Sunday, McConnell refused to speculate on a timetable, saying the election winner should be properly sworn in to reflect the will of the people.

"I'm sure all the lawyers will be looking at this," McConnell said.

Both the Coakley and Brown campaigns have raised large sums of cash in the past week and combined have spent well over a $1 million on television commercials. National party organizations as well as independent groups have also flooded the airwaves in the typically politically uncompetitive Massachusetts.

Former President Bill Clinton held rallies for Coakley on Friday, while former New York City mayor and 2008 GOP presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani has teamed up with Brown.

–CNN's Paul Steinhauser, Alan Silverleib and Tom Cohen contributed to this report.

Filed under: Martha Coakley • Massachusetts • President Obama • Scott Brown • Senate
soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. digger

    That's wishful thinking there obama.

    January 17, 2010 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  2. Ethan

    I hope MA Dems GOTV on Tues! Go Martha, we're with you! Just say no to Teabagging Republicans. Same old lies that bankrupted this country last decade. Same exact lies as Bush these Republicans. Don't fall for their fake campaign. The REAL vote for CHANGE IS COAKLEY! GOTV MA!

    January 17, 2010 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |

    Yes we remember when the republicans were in power they wanted to do away with the filibuster so democrats could not use it, they said it had no buissness in the senate. but now that the democrats are in control they use it constantly to block any thing that will help the poor and elderly of america. but will go to any lenghts to pass any thing for corporations or the super rich. just what america needs in mass. another no sayer.

    January 17, 2010 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  4. indy

    If people aren't supportive of this healthcare bill, promoting her as the vote to pass it could backfire for the President. I hope he thought this through before visiting Massachusetts. His most recent visits to "win" things have not worked well. Since I don't support the bill, I'm hoping Coakley loses. There has to be a very good reason a Democrat is in a toss-up election in Massachusetts. I'm hoping Brown pulls it off. Either way though, I hope this proves to the Democrats that November will be a very interesting month and they should take nothing for granted.

    January 17, 2010 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  5. Lilarose in Bandon, OR

    If the Republicans get Kennedy's seat in Mass, it will be a slap in the face for a man who has done so much for Mass.

    Those residents would deserve to have NO health care forever, IMO.

    I have so many women friends who can't even get a mammogram or pap.

    January 17, 2010 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  6. geo

    Obama "needs MA. on Tuesday", as he has said. What he didn't say is how he won't keep his promises to them on Wednesday. This administration is purely a campaign mode group and I'm a Democrat at heart!!! Vote for Brown and send this adminstration a message that they have blown the opportunity of a life-time to have done the right thing. What a shame and a black-eye they have become versus their promise of change. Chicago thugs at the very least.

    January 17, 2010 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  7. Hammerer

    Obama says that the voters should be angry with the ones that got us in this mess, the big banks, drug industry, wall street, that they are the same ones that are making the big rewards now.
    Obama is the one that is funneling the tax dollars to these very fat cats that he is holding up as the problem. Talk about double minded!

    January 17, 2010 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  8. Frank P

    Two wrongs don't make a right!

    January 17, 2010 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  9. Steve, NY

    Go get'em Brown. Show that the people have power instead of the politicians who hide behind close doors.

    January 17, 2010 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  10. RogerD

    Martha should spend all day Monday crafting her concession speech so the President's speech writers can edit and message for her soft fall on Tuesday night!

    January 17, 2010 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  11. Chrissy, Tx

    Coakley is just another door mat for Democrats. Go Brown!

    January 17, 2010 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  12. R.O.B.

    This is going to be interesting.

    January 17, 2010 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  13. Keith in Austin

    While the true leaders of the world are focused on the dying masses in Haiti, Obozo is out campaigning again for left-wing Democrats! Send this empty suit politician a wake up call Massachusetts! Stand up for our Freedom and vote for Brown.

    January 17, 2010 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  14. GOP 2010 2012

    ha ha ha we will see if this clown can help. It doesn't seem like he really cares about anyone but himself.

    January 17, 2010 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  15. brad from IL.

    Looks like air force one was loaded with Obama cronies . Coakley is toast and Mass. needs a big thank you from the people of this great nation , before this Admin. of Obama destroy's this country. Please Mass. eject a Senator too stop this madness. Elect Scott Brown too stop this destruction. Like J. F. K . said ( Not what your Country can do for you . It's what you could do for your Country. ) Please help this Nation Thank you all in advance..

    January 17, 2010 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  16. mb-texas

    Massachusetts prove the pollster from Suffort University wrong and send Martha Coakley to Washington to support the middleclass.
    Brown is already saying no.He would be proud to be the 41st vote against the health care bill.Show that Massachusetts will be
    strong for the American people.We need this health care bill.
    Thanks get fired up.

    January 17, 2010 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  17. tess

    goodbye coakley and good riddence dems agenda!!!!

    January 17, 2010 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  18. Larry S

    With the difference in Democrats to Republicans of 3 to 1, it would seem that this would be an easy win . . . the damage is already done, and Obama must 'see the writing on the wall'. Even since this is close, there are a lot of democrats worring about their re-election.

    January 17, 2010 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  19. Bobbie Carroll

    How typical of a republican candidate to campaign on what he will vote against instead of having a plan to fix the problem of health care in this country, he will just vote no. How useless is this guy.

    January 17, 2010 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  20. freddie

    Americas only hope is that she will loose and the health bill will die. This is what the majority of Americans really want.

    January 17, 2010 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  21. Ron

    Clearly the American people are disgusted with this administration and Congress. What happened to "Hope and Change" and "Transparency"? They were never intended and the people are furious. Back room deals, bribery, special consideration (to specific states to buy a vote and union benefits). How can an election in Massachusetts be even close? It is such a blue state (3 to 1 Dems to Republicans). This SHOULD be a blowout and a Republican should be down by 20% or more but he very well may win? What does that tell this corrupt administration and Congress and now talking about NOT promptly certifying the election if Brown wins? Just wait until 2010. The American people want our country back.

    January 17, 2010 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
1 2