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Obama to headline rally for Maryland Gov. O'Malley

This will be the president's first campaign event for a fellow Democrat since January.

September 30, 2010|By Michael A. Memoli, Tribune Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — President Obama will headline a rally for Gov. Martin O'Malley in Maryland next week, his first public campaign event for a fellow Democrat since January.

The O'Malley campaign confirmed the Oct. 7 event with the president, though the location is still to be determined.

Obama has appeared with dozens of Democratic candidates this year, but almost exclusively at paid fundraisers. Sen. Russ Feingold and gubernatorial nominee Tom Barrett joined Obama for his "Moving America Forward" rally in Wisconsin on Tuesday, but the event was organized by the Democratic National Committee and not by either man's campaign.

The last time Obama headlined a candidate-specific public rally was in January, when he made a late visit for Martha Coakley's struggling campaign in Massachusetts' special Senate election. Scott Brown ultimately won that race, becoming the first Republican senator from the Bay State in decades.

For O'Malley, bringing the president in is a no-brainer. A new Washington Post poll showed that Maryland is one of the few states where a strong majority of voters approve of Obama's job performance — 61% approve while just 37% disapprove. The governor released a radio ad including an endorsement from Obama earlier this week.

"In the toughest of times, Martin O'Malley has moved Maryland forward creating jobs, investing in schools, providing affordable opportunities for college, and improving public safety," Obama says in the spot, running in the Baltimore market aimed at African American voters.

The same Washington Post poll showed O'Malley with a lead of 52% to 41% over his Republican opponent, former Gov. Robert Ehrlich. The election is a rematch of the 2006 race when O'Malley, then Baltimore's mayor, unseated Ehrlich. Other independent polls have shown O'Malley with a narrower lead.

Both campaigns have been rolling out other national endorsements. Just after O'Malley announced he would be campaigning with independent New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday, Ehrlich announced he has the support of Bloomberg's predecessor, Rudy Giuliani. Ehrlich received the endorsement and a $10,000 contribution from Mitt Romney's Free and Strong America PAC on Tuesday.

Obama will hold at least three more public rallies in battleground states in the coming weeks, with a stop in Philadelphia planned for Oct. 10. Additional events are possible with other candidates, though his poll numbers in battleground states have made him less in demand than other surrogates like First Lady Michelle Obama and former President Bill Clinton.

Other Democratic candidates have joined the president during his four-state tour this week. Obama and Diane Denish, New Mexico's lieutenant governor who is seeking the state's top job this November, made an impromptu joint stop at a diner after his backyard event in Albuquerque on Tuesday. Iowa Gov. Chet Culver attended Wednesday's discussion on the economy in Des Moines.

Obama is also set to travel to his home state of Illinois on the same day of the O'Malley event for a fundraiser for Alexi Giannoulias, who is running to keep Obama's former Senate seat in Democratic hands.

mmemoli@tribune.com

twitter.com/mikememoli

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