(Updated 9:20 p.m.) Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal said he has a simple message for President Barack Obama: “Our middle class families are struggling and they need tax cuts now.”
Reacting to the mood of the 2010 election cycle or perhaps a more defiant Blumenthal said he would stand with Obama when he agrees with him—like he does on the issue of extending the Bush tax cuts to the middle class—“and never hesitate to oppose him if I believe the people of Connecticut would be better served by a different position.”
A politician for the past four decades, Blumenthal has been struggling to gain his footing as a U.S. Senate candidate and his Republican opponent, Linda McMahon, has continued to chip away at his reputation and standing in the polls by spending close to $30 million of her personal fortune on the campaign.
Blumenthal maintained his resolve Thursday prior to Obama’s arrival and said he will continue to campaign like he’s 10 points behind.
But in order to do that he needs money, which was most of the motivation behind Obama’s visit that attracted about 300 supporters to Stamford on Thursday. It also attracted those unhappy with the President and the direction of the country.
The $1,000-per-person fundraiser in Stamford was expected to raise about $400,000 for Blumenthal’s campaign.
Democrats, some of whom have privately expressed frustration with the pace and enthusiasm of Blumenthal’s campaign, said they were confident Blumenthal will pull through to victory on Nov. 2.
Rep. Gerald Fox of Stamford said he expects the race to get more exciting over the next several weeks. As he walked into Thursday’s fundraiser, Fox said that over the past 20 years Blumenthal has attended a lot of events and has had personal contact with a lot of people. He said that kind of dedication will translate into votes on Election Day.
Rep. Carlo Leone of Stamford said he does not believe Obama’s visit will hurt Blumenthal. He said people will see through the critical rhetoric and understand being President is a tough job.
“He’s only been here two years,” said Leone. “You can’t change a country overnight.”
At the 2 p.m. press conference at Blumenthal’s Stamford headquarters he admitted he disagreed with Obama on the bank bailout, stimulus funding, and the pharmaceutical portion of federal health reform, but there was also plenty of agreement. Without going into too many specifics about policy stances, it wasn’t long before Blumenthal fell back on his familiar campaign sound bytes saying “the people of Connecticut know me. They know I will stand with them. I will fight for them.”
Obama echoed the sentiment when he arrived Thursday evening around 6:35 p.m.
“We’ve got a man who’s been fighting for Connecticut since the day he walked into the Attorney General’s office. He’s got a record to prove it,” Obama told the crowd. “There is no fight too big or too small for Dick Blumenthal to take on.”
“Dick, she has more money than you, just in case there’s any confusion,” Obama said to laughs from the crowd.
“I understand she has promised a Smackdown,“ Obama said referring to McMahon. “And there’s no doubt someone who has been in professional wrestling would think that they are right at home in the U.S. Senate … but the truth is public service is not a game.”
“At this moment we are facing challenges we haven’t seen since the great depression and facing serious challenges requires serious leaders who are willing to take on the status quo, special interests, who are wiling to fight for our people and our future. And that’s why Dick Blumenthal is that leader.”
Obama also addressed Blumenthal’s concerns regarding middle class tax cuts and the anti-incumbent, anti-Washington mood on the campaign trail.
“This is a tough election season. People are hurting. And they’re frustrated. And that means even when people don’t have ideas, they have enough money behind them, they may be able to convince folks ‘you know what, just cast a protest vote. Throw the bums out. ‘ That’s a mentality that has an appeal. And you can’t blame folks for feeling that way some time’,” Obama said.
At the end Obama amidst applause called for the group to rally and help Blumenthal win in November. He said a lot has changed since his election in 2008 but “It is still a choice between sliding backwards and moving forward. I need you to knock on some doors for Dick Blumenthal. I need you to make phonecalls for Dick Blumenthal.”
Blumenthal was uncertain if he would ride in the presidential motorcade to Rich Richman’s home in Greenwich where fewer than 50 guests paid $30,000 each for time with Obama. Blumenthal was seated at the back of the room, while Democratic gubernatorial nominee Dan Malloy was seated toward the front. Ron Howard and Jane Pauley and her husband, “Doonesbury” cartoonist Garry Trudeau, were seated at tables in between.
The money raised at Richman’s home will go to the Democratic National Committee to help Democrats across the country.