Barack Obama heads to Massachusetts to face a challenge of epic proportions: He must renew the campaign of the Democrat whose victory or defeat will determine whether the president’s party will maintain it’s 60-seat majority in the Senate.
The question is whether Obama is “fired up and ready to go.”
Is he ready to speak and act in a manner that energizes the Democratic base as he did in 2007 and 2008 when, at points when his presidential campaign was struggling, he renewed its vigor and promise with the “fired up!” call?
Obama moved gingerly over the past week to help elect Democrat Martha Coakley in the suddenly-competitive January 19 special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat that was held for 46 years by Obama’s friend and supporter Ted Kennedy.
But Obama is giving some indication that he may be getting over the caution — and the fantasy of bipartisan compromise — that has so undermined his presidency.
“Let me tell you something, if Republicans want to campaign against something by standing up for the status quo and for insurance companies over families and businesses, that is a fight I want to have,” Obama said as he prepared for a Massachusetts appaearance that has grown increasingly critical to his political position and governing agenda.
The president was never going to make a big, high-profile swing through Massachusetts, a state he won with ease in 2008. Instead, relied on targeted phone calls and web campaigning to aid Coakley.
The final call on whether to send the president to Boston was made after a review of late tracking polls, which were analyzed to determine whether an appearance was needed to help the embattled Democrat — or, to be more precise, to determine whether a presidential visit would help or harm Democratic prospects.
With turnout for the special election expected to be very low, there are more than a few Democratic strategists who fear an Obama visit might do more to energize conservatives who will vote for Republican Scott Brown than liberals who have been somewhat disappointed by Coakley’s cautious campaign – and, when it comes to issues of war and peace and health-care reform, very disappointed in the president.
But the call was made late Friday to put Obama in the state, which is actually a positive sign for Coakley. It means the White House thinks she can win, and that it is worth risking some of the president’s political capital to close the deal.