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Politics At Play As Obama Talks Energy At MIT

This article is more than 9 years old.
President Obama and Sen. John Kerry arrive at Logan International Airport in Boston on Friday. (AP)
President Obama and Sen. John Kerry arrive at Logan International Airport in Boston on Friday. (AP)

President Obama did more Friday than promote climate legislation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He pumped his own energy into the campaigns of Democratic allies facing tough re-election bids.

The president's day of politicking began with a quick speech at MIT to challenge the nation to lead the global economy in clean energy and push Congress to pass stalled climate change legislation.

But the appearance wasn't without political implications.

For one thing, pairing the "official" White House climate event with the politcal events significantly reduced the cost of flying Obama to the fundraisers for two politically anemic Democrats, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut.

And Obama made sure to insert hardly subtle plugs for Patrick into his remarks at MIT. Twice, he praised what he called Patrick's "leadership and vision," saying he has endeavored to make Massachusetts "a clean energy leader" - remarks that get Patrick favorable local coverage and come for free to his campaign.

Patrick, an Obama friend who faces re-election in 2010, has insisted for months that he's not focused on re-election next year. He dropped that pretense with the two high-profile fundraisers headlined by Obama.

"He's going to need a lot of funds to overcome his low poll ratings, so I expect on balance it will be a good thing for him," Tufts University political science professor Kent Portney said of Patrick. "President Obama is still very, very popular here in Massachusetts."

After the MIT speech and the two downtown Boston fundraisers for Patrick, Obama heads to Connecticut to help Dodd's 2010 bid with an estimated $1 million haul. Obama plans to visit a small business and appear at a fundraiser with Dodd, the White House's point man in the Senate on financial regulatory reform.

Politics has dominated Obama's schedule this week. On Tuesday alone, Obama raised an estimated $3 million for the Democratic National Committee during a series of appearances in New York City. He also campaigned in New Jersey and heads next week to Florida and Virginia.

The New England trip comes a little more than a month after Patrick pushed through a change in state law creating an interim senator to replace the late Edward M. Kennedy. Obama and his staff sought the appointment to restore the Democrats' 60-vote, filibuster-proof margin in the Senate as the administration tries to pass its top domestic priority, overhauling the nation's health insurance system.

Dodd, who faces an uphill climb of his own, has become a close ally in dealing with the financial industry, bypassing a change to take Kennedy's leadership role on health care in favor of staying with his portfolio.

Democrats look ahead to the 2010 midterm elections with the barest filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and the risk of giving up a more sizable majority in the House.

This program aired on October 23, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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