BOSTON (AP) - President Barack Obama stumped for Democrat Edward Markey in Boston on Wednesday, hoping to give the veteran congressman the edge over Republican Gabriel Gomez in the state's special election for the U.S. Senate.
Obama told thousands of cheering party loyalists at a rally in the city's Roxbury neighborhood that he needs Markey in the Senate.
"The history of senators from Massachusetts is they fight for people," Obama said. "They fight for working people. They fight for working families. They fight for future generation. They're not scared of the special interests. They're not scared of the big money in politics. They know who sent them.
"Nobody is better suited to carry on that legacy than Ed Markey."
Obama said Markey would be a key ally on critical issues including gun control, health care and helping rebuild a thriving middle class.
"He's been steady. He's been constant," Obama said. "That's the kind of leader we need in the Senate right now."
On his way to the rally Obama and Markey made a brief stop in the city's South End neighborhood, where they visited a sandwich shop to chat with lunchtime patrons and workers. Obama said Markey "has been fighting for Massachusetts for a very long time."
The president was greeted by Markey, Gov. Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino after Air Force One landed late Wednesday morning at Logan Airport.
Markey introduced the president at the rally and vowed to campaign across the state right up until the election.
"There is a lot at stake," Markey told the crowd. "My opponent says he is a new kind of Republican, but he backs the oldest, stalest Republican ideas from the past."
Gomez, a businessman and former Navy SEAL, also campaigned Wednesday, including meeting with veterans in Chelsea.
Gomez said he was honored that Obama had come to Massachusetts because of his candidacy. He also said he's not worried about the resources Democrats are throwing at the race and that he's "closing the gap rapidly" on Markey.
"Absolutely I am confident we will have the resources to close this in the next 13 days," Gomez said.
Gomez also said Obama hadn't responded to a letter he sent him. In the letter, Gomez said that if he's elected he would work with Obama to represent all Massachusetts residents.
"Where we disagree," he wrote, "I will reach across the aisle and work to find common ground with you, and with my fellow members of Congress."
During his visit, according to White House officials, Obama also met privately with the family of slain MIT Officer Sean Collier, who was shot to death while on duty three days after the Marathon bombings. Investigators believe the brothers suspected in the bombings also killed Collier.
Obama also helped raise money for Markey's campaign by posing for photographs with supporters of the congressman.
Obama isn't the only high-profile Democrat hitting the campaign trail on behalf of Markey.
Markey's campaign confirmed Wednesday that former President Bill Clinton will attend a rally in Worcester on Saturday.
Gomez said he was unfazed by the parade of top Democrats.
"He's got his army. I'm more than confident that my army is going to a lot better than his D.C. army," Gomez said. "I wouldn't trade my army for a D.C. army any day."
On Wednesday, a pro-Republican group created by the treasurer for former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann said it is making "a significant ad buy" in the special election. Outside groups supporting Markey have been pouring money into the race, but Americans for Progressive Action's investment is the first major play by outside groups on the Republican side.
Obama, a Chicago Blackhawks fan, also said he'd refrain from commenting about the Stanley Cup finals against the Boston Bruins.
"I am not going to talk trash about the hockey game." Obama said at the rally. "I am not going to say anything about the outstanding qualities of the Chicago Blackhawks."
A Suffolk University poll released Monday shows Markey winning the backing of 48 percent of voters compared with 41 percent for Republican Gabriel Gomez as the special election heads into its final two weeks.
The poll of 500 voters had a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points and was conducted June 6-9. Markey's lead has narrowed compared with an earlier Suffolk poll, which found 52 percent favoring Markey and 35 percent backing Gomez.
Also Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden attended a joint fundraiser for Markey and the Massachusetts State Democratic Party in Washington hosted by former Vice President Al Gore and Vicki Kennedy. Markey's campaign would not say how much money it expected to raise.
The election to fill the Senate seat left vacant by the resignation of John Kerry is June 25.
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