Christine Stuart photo
President Barack Obama speaks at Stamford Hilton (Christine Stuart photo)

President Barack Obama arrived at U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s million-dollar fundraiser Friday to give the struggling senator and state Democrats a pep talk.

America is now closer to healthcare reform than it has ever been because of Chris Dodd, Obama said. The president also credited Dodd with helping to write legislation to create a Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

“So Chris has a lot on his plate these days. And that’s because we’re facing pretty big challenges as a nation right now,” Obama said.

Dodd has been at the forefront of the economic and healthcare struggles. He is chair of the Senate Banking Committee. And, at the request of his then-ailing friend U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, the Connecticut senator stepped in to chair the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee to help usher through a healthcare bill.

“We are now closer to Ted Kennedy’s dream of health care reform than we have ever been,” Obama said.

There seem to be some selective memories regarding the challenges the country faced when I walked through the doors of the White House, Obama said.

“We were losing 700,000 jobs a month. Our financial system was on the brink of collapse,” Obama said.

The president talked about how much the American Recovery Act has accomplished. Prior to arriving at the fundraiser Obama visited Eastern Land Management, a local landscaping business that benefited from a Small Business Administration loan.

“They are now hiring folks, just bought a new building, they are expanding—right here, just next door to this hotel,” he said.

Based on initial estimates, Obama said the recovery act has saved 250,000 jobs just in the nation’s public schools.

“The recovery act wasn’t just about tax cuts . . . it was the largest investment in education in America’s history. It was the largest investment in clean energy,” Obama said as the crowd of close to 700 supporters stood and cheered.

Christine Stuart photo
U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd listens to Obama (Christine Stuart photo)

Aside from calling Dodd “one of my favorites.” Obama praised his own administration saying, “we’ve already had one of the most productive first years of any administration.”

But it hasn’t been easy.

“You didn’t get involved in this because it was easy,” Obama said. “We should draw energy from the fact that it’s harder.”

He said there are going to be disagreements about these issues. “This is a democracy. It’s messy. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.” He said he wants non-Democrats to know that he “believes in a strong and loyal opposition.”

Obama said he doesn’t mind cleaning up the mess of the previous administration, but he doesn’t want folks sitting on the sideline telling Democrats to mop faster. Republicans and Democrats, he said, must rise to the occasion and realize this is a critical moment in America’s history.

In light of a potential primary challenge by Merrick Alpert, supporters said they hope Obama’s appearance will help boost Dodd’s popularity.

Alpert, who held a press conference outside the event, said he requested a meeting with the president, but never received a response. He is one of seven candidates challenging Dodd for his seat. There are five Republicans and one Independent candidate hoping to unseat the five term U.S. Senator.

The most recent Quinnipiac University poll in September showed 49 percent of voters disapproved of the job Dodd was doing while 43 percent approved. The poll was an improvement from another in April, in which 58 percent of voters disapproved of how Dodd was handling his job, while 33 percent approved.

The poll also showed former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons beating Dodd 44 to 39 percent.

Click here to read Dodd’s opening remarks introducing Obama. And here to read about the protests outside the event.