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Politics

At Prince George's Rally, Obama Tells Marylanders 'Go Vote'

Christopher Connelly/WYPR
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With approval ratings near record lows, President Barack Obama has not been invited to campaign for many Democrats facing tight races around the country. But he got an enthusiastic welcome Sunday from thousands of people packed into a high school gym in Upper Marlboro. The president was there to give a high-powered push to Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown in his bid for the governor’s mansion.

Before Obama took to the stage, Maryland’s top Democrats took turns revving up the crowd, praising Brown and encouraging the audience to get out the vote. Standing with Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker and Rep. Donna Edwards, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer tied opponents of the Civil Rights Movement to current-day state legislators who enact legislation to voting more difficult, “because they know if we show up, we win.” Gov. Martin O’Malley and Rep. Elijah Cummings took a selfie with the audience and led the audience in a chant of “forward not back.”

After Brown introduced the president at “my law school classmate, my friend, the 44th president of the United States,” Obama praised Maryland's progressive track record and derided Republicans as backwards and out of touch. Brown, he told the crowd, is better than that. 

“Anthony Brown is not running around promising carve outs for folks at the top. He's running to make investments in things that benefit everybody. Infrastructure that creates jobs, education that let's people get ahead, job training that lets people learn new skills.”

Obama exhorted the mostly African-American audience to not let cynicism that American politics is rigged keep them from going to the polls. “You’ve got to go vote,” Obama repeated many times.

It’s a message Brown needs Democrats in this Democratic stronghold to heed if he hopes to win an increasingly tight race against Republican Larry Hogan, an Anne Arundel businessman. Recent polling puts Hogan just seven points behind the lieutenant governor. Hogan’s campaign says Brown's lead is smaller than the lead Kathleen Kennedy Townsend had on Bob Ehrlich in 2010 when Ehrlich won the race and became the Maryland’s first Republican governor in generations.

Immediately after the rally Obama headlined, Hogan’s campaign sent out a statement including a link a Reuters article noting that several audience members left before the president finished his address. The early departures, Reuters contends, “underscored [the president’s] continuing unpopularity.”

Hogan will get a boost of his own when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie comes back to the Free State for a second time to help get out the cash at a fundraising event in Potomac on Wednesday.