Obama Rallies Detroit Crowd in Rare Foray Into Senate Race

US President Barack Obama arrives to speak at a Democratic campaign rally for US Senate candidate Gary Peters (R) and candidate for Michigan Governor Mark Schauer (L) at the Matthaei Center at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, November 1, 2014.

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama used part of the final weekend of the 2014 election campaign rallying the Democratic faithful in Michigan for a Senate candidate whose contest has one of the party’s few bright spots this year.

Obama urged about 6,000 people in a gymnasium at Wayne State University in Detroit last night to get out and vote for Representative Gary Peters, who is running for the U.S. Senate, and Mark Schauer, a former member of Congress who is the Democratic candidate for governor.

“Complaining and not voting, that means you’re just giving away your power,” he told the audience. “That means you’re giving away your precious right to help determine the course of your nation.”

Democratic control of the U.S. Senate is in jeopardy in Tuesday’s election. His own popularity diminished, Obama has stayed away from the most hotly contested races, even in states such as Iowa and Colorado that he won in both 2008 and 2012.

Yesterday’s stop in Michigan is the president’s first and only campaign rally with any of the Democratic Senate candidates. He’s spent much more time raising money from wealthy donors to fuel the Democrats’ campaign ads and turnout effort.

Peters praised Obama’s role in assisting the automobile industry in Michigan and welcomed his assistance.

“Thank God our president stood up for American workers,” he said.

Obama focused his pitch on middle-income voters.

“Every time the Republican Party leaders in Washington had to take a stand this year on policies that would help the middle class, their answer was no,” he said, citing his proposals to raise the federal minimum wage and measures to ensure women get equal pay.

Edge in Peril

The Democratic caucus has a 55-45 edge in the Senate now. That might evaporate on Nov. 4, with Democratic candidates trailing in Montana, West Virginia and South Dakota and incumbents in varying degrees of trouble in Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, North Carolina and New Hampshire. Democrats are hoping to win Republican-held seats in Kentucky and Georgia, and independent candidate Greg Orman is running close to Kansas Republican Pat Roberts.

Losing the Senate would make the final two years of Obama’s presidency much more difficult, limiting his ability to get his judicial nominees confirmed and cement his legacy.

Obama’s final scheduled campaign stops are set for today in Pennsylvania and Connecticut, neither of which has a close Senate race.

Voters Set

Obama’s appearance in Michigan won’t change the outcome of Tuesday’s elections, said John Engler, a former Republican governor who is now president of the Business Roundtable, a Washington-based association of corporate chief executives.

Peters will probably win, Engler said, and Schauer will probably lose to Republican Governor Rick Snyder.

“The kind of overall direction of Michigan is pretty well cast,” Engler said in an interview last week. “That’s probably a safe place to go because it has no impact.”

A Detroit News/WDIV poll conducted Oct. 22 to Oct. 24 gave Peters a 48 percent to 33 percent lead over Republican Terri Lynn Land, the former secretary of state. The winner of that race will replace Democrat Carl Levin, the six-term senator who is retiring.

That same poll put Schauer behind Snyder. The incumbent, first elected in 2010, drew support from 45 percent of respondents, compared with Schauer’s 40 percent.

More recent polls have put the race slightly closer, and Schauer said at the rally that he was on the verge of victory.

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