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PoliticsPA: Obama, Biden rally in Philadelphia to boost voter turnout

By Alex Irwin
PoliticsPA Contributor
President Barack Obama spoke before a crowd of more than 18,000 at the “Moving America Forward” rally in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia Sunday afternoon in an effort to drive Democratic excitement for the upcoming midterm elections, now just three weeks away.

Obama’s speech followed several rallying cries from other big-name Democrats, including Vice President Joe Biden, as well as gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato and U.S. Senate hopeful Joe Sestak. But President Obama and company said little on the specifics of any Pennsylvania race, focusing instead on the failings of the Republican Party and the importance of voter turnout November 2.

Obama repeatedly called for rally attendees to top the enthusiasm that helped propel so many Democrats into office during his 2008 presidential bid while criticizing the barrage of negative ads from conservative groups.

“Philadelphia, that’s why I need you working even harder in this election than you did in the last election,” Obama said. “We need to fight their millions of dollars with our millions of voices. I look out on this crowd and I see millions of voices. Across the country, we need to finish what we started in 2008.”

While candidates nationwide and in Pennsylvania have attempted to distance themselves from President Obama and the national political scene, Sunday’s event was all about using the president’s popularity in Philadelphia to get people out to the polls.

“In 23 days, we need you to show up. We need Philadelphia to show up and send a message that we are not turning the clock back. We are behind the president and we are going to push his agenda forward,” Onorato said during his speech.

Onorato didn’t mention his Republican opponent Tom Corbett, who leads in recent polling results. Instead, he spent the rest of his time on stage focusing on healthcare and using education to spur job growth.

“I want to make sure we have an administration that understands this race is about jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Congressman Sestak appealed to independents and moderate Republicans and tied the looming midterm election to the 2008 race.

“You don’t just vote once for change. You keep fighting for change,” Sestak said.

Although neither candidate spoke directly about their campaigns, U.S. Senator Bob Casey, who also spoke at the rally, said the event will help get the candidates’ names out to potential voters.

“Part of it’s getting to know them when they’re on the platform. But also now when they campaign in the neighborhoods, voters will have a much better sense of the contrast and the differences between the candidates. That contrast is becoming ever-clearer, and I think the more people understand that contrast, the better off we’re going to be,” Casey said in an interview after Obama’s speech.

Sibyl Dinkins, a resident of the Roxborough neighborhood of Philadelphia, said seeing Onorato and Sestak speak made her feel better about the candidates.

“To hear them speak on the issues really gives you a little more confidence when you’re going to the polls,” Dinkins said. “You actually have the opportunity to hear them, as opposed to just what the media has to say about them.”

Dinkins campaigned for Obama in 2008, but admitted she hasn’t been involved in this election. She said she plans to volunteer for Onorato’s campaign after attending Sunday’s rally.

Ellish Danzy, who lives in North Philadelphia, voted for the first time in the 2008 election and said the rally helped him decide to vote in the upcoming election. Though he said he needs to learn a bit more about the candidates, seeing them with Obama helped their cause.

“I’m going to have to look at them another time on TV because I couldn’t really hear them with the crowd. But I feel good about them if Obama’s running with them,” Danzy said.

The crowd in the park next to Robert Fulton Elementary School was peppered with attendees wearing union shirts, and Obama and other speakers got the loudest responses when talking about creating jobs and keeping manufacturing jobs in the U.S. Chris Hagan traveled from his Prospect Park home in Delaware County with a group of nine buses bringing union members to the rally. He said he just wanted to hear Obama speak live and said he’s behind the president.

““He’s always been a strong supporter of the unions,” Hagan said.

Other speakers included Governor Ed Rendell, U.S. Congressmen Bob Brady and Chaka Fattah and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who received a lukewarm welcome from the crowd. The hip-hop band The Roots also played for about 30 minutes, and DJ Diamond Cut hyped up the crowd between speeches.

Obama came out swinging at Republican policies that “drove our economy into a ditch,” targeting conservatives’ Pledge to America and the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that has allowed for so many special interest ads this election season, calling the spots a “threat to democracy.”

“They are being helped along this year by special interest groups that are spending unlimited amounts of money on attack ads — attacking folks like Patrick Murphy, attacking folks like Joe Sestak. Just attacking people without ever disclosing who’s behind these attack ads,” Obama said.

But at the rally, the second of four major events aimed at boosting voter turnout, Obama’s ultimate focus was building excitement for the midterm elections.

“The other side is counting on the fact that you’re going to stay home. They’re counting on your silence. They’re counting on your amnesia. They’re counting on your apathy,” Obama said. “Let’s show Washington one more time change doesn’t come from the top, it comes from the bottom.”

  • Reader Poll: Should President Joe Biden Step Aside?

    • Yes. He should step aside because of his age, declining ability to do the job. (45%)
    • No. He should not step aside. (39%)
    • Yes. He should step aside because he can't beat Donald Trump. (15%)

    Total Voters: 231

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