- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 7, 2010

BOWIE, Md. | President Obama visited Maryland on Thursday to support incumbent Gov. Martin O'Malley’s re-election bid and to urge Democrats to vote in November, despite their disappointment with the first two years of his presidency.

“Here’s a man who made tough choices at tough times,” said Mr. Obama, pointing to Mr. O'Malley. “I hope you’re ready to fight for Martin so he can keep fighting for you.”

Mr. Obama arrived at Bowie State University as Mr. O'Malley, a Democrat, appears to be pulling away in the tight race with former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican who lost his re-election bid to Mr. O'Malley in 2006.

That Mr. Obama and Mr. O'Malley held their rally at a historically black college in Prince George’s County was no surprise. The county’s large number of Democratic and black voters significantly helped the president win Maryland in 2008 and helped the governor win four years ago.

Mr. O'Malley leads in the polls in a state that has roughly twice as many Democratic voters as registered Republicans. However, he will need a strong voter turnout to win the race.

Mr. Obama’s praise of the governor stayed closely to O'Malley campaign talking points: that the governor has reduced crime, frozen college tuition costs and made large improvements to public education. He also warned the thousands who attended the outdoor event on a warm fall afternoon that not voting in November could result in Republicans taking control of Congress and stopping Democrats’ progress.

“As long as I’m your president and Martin O'Malley is your governor, we will not allow politicians … to sacrifice your education for tax cuts we cannot afford,” he said. “If everybody who fought for change in 2008 shows up, I’m absolutely certain we will win. The other side is counting on you not to show up.”

Mr. Obama also criticized Republicans, saying they created the nation’s economic mess, have refused to help fix it and will return to the same agenda. At one point, a heckler yelled, “You’re a liar!”

Still, Mr. Obama readily acknowledged voters are disappointed with his failure to revive the economy.

“The truth is we’ve still got a long way to go,” he said. “So of course people are frustrated. … People are impatient with the pace of the change.”

Two recent polls have Mr. Ehrlich, who in 2002 became the state’s first Republican governor in roughly three decades, trailing by eight and 11 points. He entered the race this summer hoping to ride the anti-incumbent wave that helped Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown win the U.S. Senate seat long held by Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, followed by GOP gubernatorial wins in New Jersey and Virginia.

“But they can’t take back Maryland,” said Mr. O’Malley, who supported Hillary Rodham Clinton during the 2006 Democratic presidential primary race.

Though the warm weather drew a large crowd, it also caused dozens of people to pass out.

“Here’s another one,” the president said at least twice during his roughly 40-minute speech, as he pointed at somebody who dropped. “Give ‘em some water. Give ‘em some space.”

Police did not allow those attending the rally to bring water inside the security perimeter.

The president was joined on stage by Democratic Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, who is expected to win her fifth term. However, first-term Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil Jr., in a tight race in Maryland’s 1st District, where Mr. Obama’s initiatives are less popular, did not attend the event.

“He’s in [his] district,” Kratovil spokeswoman Jessica Klonsky said.

Katherine Soffer of Cheverly, Md., said she attended the rally to show her support for Mr. Obama, Mr. O'Malley and the Democratic Party.

“And I want to help generate some enthusiasm for the midterm elections,” she said. “I think this is going to help.”