After keeping his distance from his fellow Democrats for nearly a year, President Obama on Wednesday night is finally making a public appearance on the campaign trail. He's traveling to Bridgeport, Connecticut on behalf of Gov. Dan Malloy, the embattled Democratic governor that Mr. Obama helped get elected in 2010.
The circumstances for Mr. Obama have changed significantly in four years. For most of 2010, Mr. Obama had positive job approval ratings nationally. Now, his national job approval rating stands at just 42 percent, after being underwater for more than a year. His negative marks for his handling of the economy, foreign policy and other issues haven't made the president that valuable of an asset for Democrats on the 2014 ballot.
In Connecticut, however, things are different for Mr. Obama.
In the solidly-blue state, which supported Mr. Obama by a margin of 17 points in 2012, the president is "at least less unpopular than in other parts of the country," as University of Connecticut Prof. Ronald Schurin told CBS News. A Quinnipiac poll from May of this year found that Connecticut voters gave Mr. Obama a split job approval rating, 48 percent to 48 percent. That's almost exactly how they felt in October 2010, when Connecticut voters split 47 percent to 47 percent.
Meanwhile, as the president's agenda has stalled in Washington, Malloy has managed to execute large parts of it in Connecticut, the governor's senior adviser Mark Bergman told CBS News.
"Look at what the president's been advocating for in the last couple years: comprehensive gun control legislation -- Connecticut passed that; increase in minimum wage -- we were the first state... Connecticut's been a leader in making sure the Affordable Care Act is being implemented," Bergman said. "If you look at the policies the president has espoused in the last couple of years, Connecticut is a great model."
Bergman said that the Malloy campaign is hoping Mr. Obama's event with the governor on Wednesday night will energize voters, Democrats and independents alike, in what's sure to be a very close race. A Quinnipiac poll released last week showed Malloy in a dead heat against Republican Tom Foley, the former U.S. ambassador to Ireland. The CBS News/New York Times/YouGov Battleground Tracker also shows a tie between the two candidates. Malloy narrowly defeated Foley in 2010.
The Foley campaign dismissed the notion that Mr. Obama's visit will have any impact on the race.
"Dan Malloy can bring whoever he wants to Connecticut," Foley campaign spokesman Mark McNulty told CBS News. "This election is going to be about his record of massive tax increases and one of the most anemic recoveries from the recession with respect to jobs and economic growth."
Polls show that voters certainly aren't thrilled with Malloy's performance. One recent survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling showed that Mr. Obama has a higher job approval rating among Connecticut voters than the governor does.
"I think that people in the Democratic base look favorably on the president and understand the problems he's had, the difficulties he's had facing the Republican House of Representatives," Schurin said. "The governor's task is to persuade people in the Democratic base that the problems he's had and the challenges he's faced are things he's working successfully to overcome and that he needs another term to overcome."
In May, when Quinnipiac asked voters to say why they approved or disapproved of Malloy's job performance, 18 percent of those who disapproved cited taxes. Another 18 percent mentioned the state budget or finances. In his first year in office, in the midst of the global recession, Malloy raised taxes by more than $1.5 billion. He also reneged on his promise to give everyone in Connecticut a $55 tax refund.
In addition to Mr. Obama, Malloy has recruited former President Bill Clinton to help him convince voters that he's done the best job possible under the circumstances. In Hartford on Monday, Mr. Clinton pointed out that other governors have slashed education spending in order to deal with state deficits.
Malloy "didn't do that," the former president said. "He kept supporting your schools, and you are way better off because of it."
While it's likely high-profile surrogates like Mr. Clinton or Mr. Obama will help Malloy win any new supporters, it's possible they could help turn out a few more Malloy backers on Election Day.
That's what many say Mr. Obama did for Malloy in 2010.
As the Connecticut Post notes, more than 9,000 people showed up for a rally that Mr. Obama held for Malloy in Bridgeport just three days before the 2010 election. On Election Day, the turnout was so great in Bridgeport that the city ran out of machine-scored ballot forms. Malloy ended up winning 81 percent of the Bridgeport vote, helping him gain just about 6,400 more votes statewide than Foley.
Bergman, Malloy's senior adviser, said they're aiming to generate the same sort of excitement this year.
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