PHILADELPHIA — President Barack Obama blitzed across three states Saturday in a final push to get Democrats to the polls and preserve a governing majority that is in danger of unraveling.
Showing up in friendly Democratic cities, Obama sought to boost voter turnout by warning that hard-won initiatives passed over the past 21 months could be undone if Republicans take control of Congress in Tuesday's elections.
Obama spoke to 1,600 campaign volunteers in Philadelphia in the morning; headlined a larger rally in Bridgeport, Conn., in the afternoon and ended the day in his hometown, Chicago, for an outdoor event that recalled his historic presidential victory speech in Grant Park nearly two years before.
This time around, the mood was more somber. Obama's approval rating has fallen steadily since that night and his party is on the brink of ceding control of Congress to the opposition.
Obama got an enthusiastic reception throughout the day, although he was interrupted in Philadelphia and Bridgeport by hecklers demanding more funding dedicated to combating AIDS globally. He scowled a bit as demonstrators were escorted out of the rally in Bridgeport.
Defining the stakes, the president told the crowd in Philadelphia that Democrats need to turn out in large numbers to protect policies painstakingly enacted into law.
"It's difficult here in Pennsylvania; it's difficult all across the country," Obama told the crowd at Temple University. "And unless each and every one of you turn out and get your friends to turn out and get your families to turn out, then we can fall short and all the progress we've made over the last couple of years can be rolled back."
Obama ends his midterm campaign work today with a rally at Cleveland State University.
White House aides said he would stay off the trail on Monday so that Democratic organizers can work on get-out-the-vote efforts. But by the time Election Day arrives, Obama will have addressed about 200,000 people at college campuses, convention centers, and parks.
His message has been the same: Republicans caused the economic downturn and have remained a stubborn obstacle to passing legislation meant to revive the economy. He admonished supporters to vote.
"Bridgeport, in three days, you've got the chance to set the direction not just for this state but for this country for years to come," he said in Connecticut.
Speaking to Philadelphia volunteers who knock on doors and phone potential voters, Obama delivered a pep talk about the importance of grass-roots organizing.
"So the key right now is not just to show up here, it's not just to listen to speeches, it's to go out there and do the hard work that's going to be required to bring this home over the last few days," said the president, standing in front of large maps displaying Philadelphia voting wards.
He added: "Coming to the rally is not the hard part. What I need this weekend is 20,000 doors knocked on by all the volunteers who are here today. Is that something that you think you can do?"
The audience cheered.
On his way out of Philadelphia, Obama visited a local political landmark — not the Liberty Bell, the Famous 4th Street Delicatessen. The deli is a favorite of local politicians. The president ordered a corned beef Reuben sandwich with potato pancakes and sweet tea. He sat with Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa.