BRIDGEPORT Conn. (Reuters) - President Barack Obama made a final push on Sunday to help struggling Democrats before this week’s midterm elections, making campaign stops in Connecticut and Pennsylvania to try to avert a “shellacking” at the polls like the one in 2010.
After a 2014 political season spent mostly behind the scenes at high-dollar fundraisers, Obama spent the past several days on the road, making appearances in states where his low popularity ratings are seen as less of an albatross to Democrats running for office than in other close races across the country.
On Sunday, he began in Connecticut, where Democratic Governor Dan Malloy is in a tight race with Republican challenger Tom Foley. A RealClearPolitics average of polls shows Malloy up 0.7 of a point.
Malloy, speaking first at the rally, did not distance himself from Obama as many fellow Democrats have, saying it was “certainly great to have the president join us” and praising Obama for his support in the aftermath of the Newtown school shootings in 2012.
Malloy pledged never to sign a repeal of state gun control legislation passed in the wake of the massacre, which plunged the country into a new debate about gun rights.
The two men embraced on stage before Obama spoke.
Obama was interrupted several times while he spoke, at least three times by hecklers about his immigration policies. The president, who is mulling an executive order to remove the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants, said the issue underscored the need to vote on Tuesday.
“This is part of why elections are so important,” Obama said, noting that Republicans in the House of Representatives had blocked legislation on immigration reform. “The other side has a very different vision.”
Obama has pressed for Democrats to show up at voting booths on Tuesday to defy a trend in which many in the party sit out non-presidential elections. In 2010, Republicans achieved a major wave of victories, causing Obama to call it a “shellacking.”
Polls this year show Republicans gaining in tight races across the country, giving them hope of taking control of the U.S. Senate from Democrats and strengthening their hand in the House, where they already have a majority.
Obama’s sagging approval ratings have made him a rare presence on the campaign trail. Many Democrats have preferred to profit from his fundraising than from his face time.
In the handful of stops he has made in the past week, organizers have hoped Obama would be able to energize key constituency groups that helped elect him in 2012, including blacks and women.
After the Connecticut stop, Obama traveled to Philadelphia for a rally with businessman Tom Wolf, who has a sturdy 11-point lead over Republican Governor Tom Corbett in the Pennsylvania governor’s race, according to an average of polls by RealClearPolitics.
His remarks there to some 5,500 people were not interrupted by hecklers. Summing up his message for the state and the country, Obama told the crowd: “You’ve got to vote!”
Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Peter Cooney and Cynthia Osterman