Obama Makes His Closing Arguments

Sunday is President Obama's last day on the road before Tuesday's midterm elections. His get-out-the-vote effort took him to Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Illinois on Saturday. On Sunday, he'll fire up the base at one last big rally in Ohio.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

This is President Barack Obama's last day on the road before Tuesday's midterm election. His Get Out the Vote effort takes him to Ohio today.

NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro is traveling with the president.

ARI SHAPIRO: President Obama last visited Philadelphia just a few weeks ago. On that trip, thousands of supporters cheered him on at a sunny outdoor rally. This visit to Temple University was shorter, the crowd was smaller, and the president cut right to the chase.

President BARACK OBAMA: Now, I am not here to give a long speech because I want everybody out there, not in here.

SHAPIRO: True to his word, he spoke for less than seven minutes. The president stood in front of maps of Philadelphia and urged people to fan out across the city. He said coming to a 20,000-person rally, like the one a few weeks ago, is fun but that's not the hard part.

Pres. OBAMA: What I need this weekend is 20,000 doors knocked on by all the volunteers who are here today.

(Soundbite of cheering)

SHAPIRO: When Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter switched parties from Republican to Democrat last year, he gave Senate Democrats a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority. But Specter lost in this year's Democratic primary. And this year with his seat up for grabs, forget about a 60-seat supermajority; Democrats are just trying to hold onto control of Congress.

Pennsylvania's Senate contest is one of many races that are too close to call just 48 hours before Election Day. A poor showing by Pennsylvania Democrats on Tuesday could flip House, Senate and governor's seats in the state from Democratic to Republican control.

After the Temple University rally, President Obama stopped for lunch at the Famous 4th Street Delicatessen. It's a traditional Jewish deli that serves kishka, whitefish salad, and pastrami piled like a skyscraper.

(Soundbite of conversations)

Pres. OBAMA: You guys already eaten or are you...

(Soundbite of conversations)

Pres. OBAMA: Oh, everybody is in line right now?

Unidentified Man: We're waiting for you.

SHAPIRO: Martin Samshick managed this deli for 12 years. Now his company bakes the cookies that are sold out of the glass cases up front. Samshick says he plans to vote for Democrats on Tuesday, but it won't bother him if Republicans win control of Congress.

Mr. MARTIN SAMSHICK (Former Manager, Famous 4th Street Delicatessen): Well, our economy has gone downhill tremendously. My family for the most part is in the real estate business. And it's - I'm just not happy with the way the country is at this particular point.

SHAPIRO: From Pennsylvania, the president flew to Bridgeport, Connecticut. Connecticut is one of the wealthiest per capita states in the country. But in Bridgeport, one out of four families with children lives below the poverty line.

At an arena downtown, nearly 10,000 supporters cheered the president on.

Pres. OBAMA: Bridgeport, in three days, you've got the chance to set the direction not just for this state but for this country for years to come.

SHAPIRO: On Tuesday, Connecticut could elect the state's first Democratic governor in 20 years.

There's a Senate race here, too, and although Republican Linda McMahon has spent millions of her own money on the campaign, Democrat Richard Blumenthal seems the clear favorite.

The fact that a state as seemingly safe for Democrats as Connecticut got a presidential visits this close to the election shows just how narrow the Democrats' playing field has become this year.

Mr. Obama's final stop last night was personal and political. The Illinois Senate race may be the most symbolic contest of the year. The seat Barack Obama held before he became president could go Republican on Tuesday. Democrat Alexi Giannoulias is virtually tied with Republican Mark Kirk.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Pres. OBAMA: So Chicago, I need you to keep on fighting.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Pres. OBAMA: Illinois, I need you to keep on believing. I need you to knock on some doors. I need you to talk to your neighbors. I need you to get out and vote in this election.

(Soundbite of cheering)

SHAPIRO: Now, the president goes on to his last major campaign event of the 2010 elections, a rally in Cleveland, where once again thousands of people will chant: Yes we can. Then President Obama will fly home to Washington and wait to find out whether they did.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Chicago.

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