Obama wades into high-stakes race for his old Senate seat, stumping for Democratic candidateBy Darlene Superville, AP
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Obama boosts Democrat seeking his old Senate seat
CHICAGO — President Barack Obama stepped into the contest for the Illinois Senate seat he once held Thursday, hoping to help save Democrats from an embarrassing defeat in November.
Speaking at a fundraiser for Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias, Obama said voters need to send the Illinois state treasurer to Capitol Hill to boost his administration’s policies, which Obama says have pulled the country from the brink of recession. Sticking to the script he’s followed throughout the election season, Obama said voters have a choice between Democrats who want to move the country forward, and Republicans who want to revert to the failed policies of the past.
“They promise to do the exact same things that got us into this mess,” Obama told the crowd in his hometown.
Obama’s headlining stop for Giannoulias was the first of three fundraisers he was to attend in Chicago Thursday as he accelerates his campaigning ahead of the midterm elections.
Giannoulias is the only individual candidate Obama is campaigning for in the eight fundraising events he was scheduled to attend over a two-week span, underscoring the huge embarrassment it would be for Democrats to lose the seat.
Giannoulias is trailing Republican Rep. Mark Kirk in the race for campaign cash, and has been embroiled in a controversy following the failure of his family’s bank in Chicago. Regulators closed Broadway Bank this year after it failed to raise new capital. Giannoulias was an executive at the bank before he was elected to state office in 2006, and Kirk has used the bank’s failure to raise questions about Giannoulias’ fitness to be a senator.
Kirk has had his share of problems, too. The Naval Reserve officer recently acknowledged puffing up his military record, including claiming a prestigious award he never received. He also claimed to have served in the first Gulf War when he did not. Kirk has said he was “careless” in describing his military service and background.
Before starting Thursday’s fundraising blitz, Obama visited a Ford plant that has recently hired 1,200 workers, declaring that the U.S. auto industry is not just rebounding from its problems, but it on its way to being No. 1 in the world again.
The president celebrated that the big three American automakers — GM, Chrysler and Ford — were all operating at a profit again. He described a remarkable turnaround for the car companies in an industry on the brink of collapse when he took office, thanks to federal taxpayer help and industry adaptation.
While Ford did not need to accept federal bailout funds like the other two companies, Obama said Ford still benefited because the government intervention helped prevent the loss of jobs and brand confidence throughout the entire auto supply chain. He spoke from a Ford plant in Chicago that is poised to add 1,200 jobs.
“I am convinced that we’re going to rebuild not only the auto industry but the economy better and stronger before,” Obama said. “And at its heart is going to be three powerful words: Made in America.”
The White House says Ford’s expansion is possible in part because of $400 million in new Energy Department loan guarantees for companies that redesign their plants to make more fuel-efficient vehicles. By the end of the year, the plant will begin cranking out a redesigned, energy-efficient 2011 Explorer SUV that the company hopes to sell in more than 90 countries.
Obama also announced a $250 million export-import bank loan guarantee for Ford to help export its auto overseas. “We’re tired of just buying from everybody else,” Obama said. “We want to start selling.”
Pairing an official event such as the Ford plant visit with political appearances allows the White House to bill taxpayers rather than the Democratic Party or individual candidates for most of the president’s travel costs.
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