President Barack Obama and Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, left,… (Kelvin Ma / EPA )
Reporting from Boston — President Obama laid out a broad case Saturday for rejecting Republican candidates in the upcoming midterm elections, accusing his political opponents of cynically refusing to cooperate in difficult times while accepting help from secretive special-interest groups pumping millions of dollars into various campaigns.
Obama spoke at a rally for a longtime political ally and friend, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is locked in a tough reelection campaign against Republican Charlie Baker. The president also spent part of his quick trip to Boston at a fundraising event for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. A Democratic official said people paid up to $30,400 apiece to attend a VIP reception and have their picture taken with the president.
With unemployment at nearly 10% and people anxious about job security, Obama has struggled to articulate a single compelling message for keeping Democrats in power. At the Patrick event, he rolled out a range of arguments for voting against Republicans on Nov. 2.
While he and fellow Democrats labored to fix the economy, he said, the Republican leadership watched from a safe distance, hoping they would founder.
Speaking to more than 15,000 people at the Hynes Convention Center, Obama said that Democrats were enmeshed in the "grinding, frustrating work of delivering change inch by inch, day by day."
Republicans, in turn, made the "tactical decision" that if they stay "on the sidelines and don't lift a finger to help ? they figured they could ride people's anger and frustration all the way to the ballot box," Obama said.
Obama reverted to a favorite metaphor, saying he and other Democrats had been down in the ditch trying to get the battered car going while Republicans fanned themselves and enjoyed Slurpees.
Now that the metaphorical car' is on the mend, "they can get in and ride with us if they want, but they've got to get in the back seat," Obama said.
The president's speech was interrupted by hecklers who shouted their disapproval over his AIDS funding policies. That touched off a counter-chant of "four more years" from supporters of Obama and Patrick.
Obama, wearing a jacket but no tie, stared at the demonstrators, who held up a sign that read, "Keep the promise."
"Take a look at what the Republican leadership has to say about AIDS funding," the president challenged.
Obama renewed a charge that special-interest groups aligned with the Republicans were spending huge sums of money in the campaign without revealing their donors. Because the source of funds is unknown, "foreign-controlled corporations" could be underwriting the TV ad buys, Obama said.
"They don't even have the courage to stand up and disclose their identity," he said. "They could be insurance companies, they could be banks, they could even be foreign-controlled corporations -- we will never know."
The White House has faced a backlash over such attacks. Critics have said that Democrats have yet to produce concrete evidence that foreign money is fueling campaign attack ads.
They've also said that with the economy in such wretched shape, Obama is distracting voters from deeper problems by focusing on campaign finance disclosure.
Obama's visit to Boston testifies to his special connection to the Massachusetts governor.
Patrick worked in the Clinton administration in the 1990s, yet when it came time to endorse a candidate in the Democratic presidential primary in 2008, he chose Obama over rival Hillary Rodham Clinton.
A recent poll by Suffolk University showed Patrick leading Baker by 7 points.
Partisan emotions were strong at the rally. Before Obama spoke, the audience heard from Rep. Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat.
Markey, in a reference to Delaware Senate Republican candidate Christine O'Donnell, said, "We have gone from Democrats who say, 'Yes we can!' to Republicans who say, 'Yes, wiccan.'"
O'Donnell has said that when she was young, she "dabbled" in witchcraft.
With election day about two weeks away, Obama is stepping up his campaign travel, flying across the country to raise money and stump for Democratic candidates. On Sunday he and First Lady Michelle Obama are attending a rally at Ohio State University in what will be the president's 11th visit to the perennial swing state since he took office.
On Wednesday he leaves the White House for a three-day Western swing that includes stops in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Portland, Ore.