President Barack Obama hit the campaign trail for one of the newest members of his party today, Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter. The 79-year old senator switched parties last April, after 44 years in office as a Republican. His new affiliation may have won him the favor of the president, but it’s also set him up for a very tough re-election battle in Pennsylvania.
In twin events in Philadelphia this afternoon, the president helped Specter get “within striking distance” of his $2.5 million fundraising goal, according to the senator’s press secretary Kate Kelly.
Obama had already delivered two speeches by the time he reached Philadelphia – the first to autoworkers at the Lordstown General Motors Plant focusing on the economy, the second pushing health care reform at the AFL-CIO convention in Pittsburgh.
Specter’s first fundraising event was a rally, where tickets sold for between $1000 and $4,800.
In a large ballroom, Mr. Obama reiterated much of what he said earlier about health care reform, with nods to the Senator peppered in. The President hailed Sen. Specter as a politician who followed his convictions over political expediency
“Arlen is not someone who came to Washington to fight for a particular ideology. He came to fight for the working men and women of Pennsylvania. And he has a long and successful record of doing just that,” the president said.
He praised Specter for casting the deciding vote in favor of the Recovery Act.
“At the time, this was not an easy vote for Arlen to take. You can imagine the pressure he was under from the other side. But Arlen knew that it was more important to answer to the people who sent him to Washington than to the party he belonged to. That's why you should send him back to Washington for six more years -- because you know he's going to fight for you regardless of what the politics are,” the president said.
The president ended the rally saying that Specter was “a great senator when he was a Republican; he's going to be a even better senator now that he's a Democrat.”
The next event was more exclusive. Donors dined on shrimp and were able to have their photograph taken with the President, before he delivered a much shorter, similar speech to a room of 13 tables, with just ten seats each.
“Because Arlen, we were able to get the recovery package passed. Because the recovery package passed, this economy has been able to pull itself from the brink," he said, “We are not out of the woods, but we have pulled back from the abyss."