January 17th, 2010
05:14 PM ET
10 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. Fitz in Texas

    So, Obama flies to Boston.....once again campaigning, once again leaving his carbon footprint and once again costing the taxpayer......all for what, nothing.

    January 17, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  2. Former Republican

    Godspeed, Mass. Vote Martha Coakley!

    No more Republican hypocrisy and status quo.

    January 17, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  3. stevegee

    Obama and The PropOganda Machine are no match for the will of the people. Coakley is going to lose, big time!

    Wake up liberals - we don't want Socialism in America. And if that's what you want, there are plenty of other countries that would welcome you. Like Venezuela, Russia, China. So pack your bags and move out!

    January 17, 2010 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  4. Mike1952

    Wingnut told these people today that he doesn't know anything about Scott Smith at the beginning of his reading of the teleprompter. Then he proceeded to attack him like a dog. Would Wingnut know the truth if it rose up and bit him on the butt? I don't think so. He is a professional liar.

    January 17, 2010 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  5. Right Leaning Independent

    Why do the libs love Martha "Palin" Coakley?? They hated Sarah Palin for her ingnorance so why the free pass for Martha "there are no terrorists in Afghanistan" Coakley???? The only difference in the two are their respective parties and that Palin looks good. Not sure which one bothers Libs more....

    January 17, 2010 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  6. Doug

    Funny how the President and this candidate are fighting for health care by taking money from lobbyists, what a profound joke on every American. Please send them more money, it must be just starting to go to work. This is the President in a downward spiral of hate and distraction.

    January 17, 2010 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  7. Jimmy Sanborn

    Go Coakley

    January 17, 2010 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  8. Yeah, we know, Obama!

    "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."
    Yeah, we know, Obama - Like you and your ilk using swarny, behind-closed-doors tactics to push a proposed major piece of legislation - and BRIBING legislators to swing it YOUR way (regardless of what the majority of us want).


    January 17, 2010 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  9. Jenn, Philadelphia

    Why is this election so important to the Democrats? Why are they looking at back-door scenarios to get the health bill passed if she loses? Why are the Democrats afraid to debate this bill in the open? When did passing a bad bill become better than passing no bill at all? When will the American people demand more from their elected officials?

    January 17, 2010 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  10. Obama NOPE

    Hey Obama – don't do Coakley any favors. You shoulda stayed home- she'd be better off.

    January 17, 2010 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  11. harold

    A Filibuster... Does it belong in a so called Democracy?..What ever happened to the United States?.. I thought a majority vote of 51 out of 100 was a majority and therefor a Democracy....But NO games like a Politburo special 60 votes needed.. lets make it 70 out of a hundred votes needed.. That way the Wall Street and Health Industry and Republican crowd can keep it just the way it is for all time to come..Never any change...And the Republican Candidate prefers it that way ..

    January 17, 2010 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  12. GGGG

    Coakley is a dud....a Republican win will help improve the discussion and help Obama to get a more reasonable, moderate healthcare reform bill passed. Why are we taxing healthcare plans if we want to encourage employers to provide insurance? Why aren't we including malpractice reform? The majority of Americans do not like the Senate or House Healthcare reform bills.

    January 17, 2010 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  13. Stephen Tracy

    If Coakley loses, it will be very close. All she has to do is demand a recount, and sue if necessary. Look what happened in Minnesota. It took months and months for Al Franken to finally be declared the winner, ample time for the healthcare legislation to be passed.

    January 17, 2010 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  14. mark

    go home obama, stay out of local elections!

    January 17, 2010 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  15. conservative

    The electors can send a message to Obama that you and your arrogant dems do not own America despite the way they have been acting!

    January 17, 2010 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  16. phoenix86

    Dems need to win in MA. They cannot afford to lose this opportunity to finally tax and spend this country into Third World status.

    Obama, Pelosi, Reid and Coakley: Four idiots for change.

    January 17, 2010 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  17. Limbaugh or Obama - Choose, Massachusetts

    Failure or Hope

    January 17, 2010 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  18. starflight

    Under the approach that the Democrats are apparently using, only 51 votes are needed for passage of the final bill. No chance that the healthcare bill won't pass.

    January 17, 2010 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  19. Karen Carter

    Best of luck, SenBrown. Let us stop the Obama train wreck NOW!

    January 17, 2010 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  20. annie against biased news

    You call that a rally? Scott Brown had almost twice as many people. It was just another I, me, me, me, I, me obama speeche with a new addition of making fun of people with trucks. The only thing about this speech that wasn't a LIE was when someone called obama a baby killer. The only truthful statement out of the whole time obama was on stage.

    January 17, 2010 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  21. matt

    No matter who wins, the fact that this is even a race will finally make all of Washington remember that they are there to serve the people and that they need to listen to the will of the people if they wish to stay there.

    January 17, 2010 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  22. Miriam

    With the tragedy in Haiti and heightened security risks this is not the time for the President to be making partisan political appearances.
    BTW I heard chants of "Brown" and well deserved boos during this disgraceful display.
    Shame on you Barack Obama.

    January 17, 2010 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  23. Christy

    Please everyone, this is soo serious. Don't worry the health care bill will still pass and there will be many changes to make the left and right happy. We need Coakley to win. By the way to the republicans, if you do get Brown and he stops this health care? Your never going to reach the white house again. I put that on the majority of this country. If you have not heard that sad stories of every day health issues from America than you are not paying attention. Please Massachusetts vote!!!!!!

    January 17, 2010 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  24. Ethan

    We did it the Bush way for EIGHT YEARS. That is why we elected Obama. To fix health care, energy security, the wars. The only people complaining now NEVER supported Obama and the Dem agenda in the first place. There is no argument against health care that is based on the actual facts of the bill. Everyone knows the teabaggers dont listen to facts. And theres just no time to play games with important issues and to say NO to solutions. No time for playing games with America and our future, no thanks.

    January 17, 2010 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  25. Donkey Party

    So when and if Brown wins, we'll also say he is the one responsible for the continued 45,000 annual AMERICAN DEATHS that occur due to lack of our own citizens' healthcare access. Coakley was right. The real terrorists, the ones who kill hundreds of thousands more AMERICANS than any Middle Eastern terror group are already here in America. They are the GOP / Conservative Party.

    January 17, 2010 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
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