STAMFORD–The 1,500 red velvet seats of the Palace Theater were filled well before the star arrived. Folks had waited in line for hours to get in, and a low buzz of anticipation filled the hall.
Then Michelle Obama took the stage, and it was like 2008 all over again.
“This election isn’t just about all we’ve accomplished,” said Obama to the roaring crowd. “It’s about all we have left to do in the months and years ahead. This election is about the future!”
The First Lady was in Connecticut to lend her star power to Richard Blumenthal and other Democrats fighting to the midterm election finish line. They’re fighting a wave of dissatisfaction with the Democratic party and, in particular, with President Obama.
For those feeling pressure to shed any connection to an unpopular stimulus bill , health care reform and a president with a job approval rate hovering at around 46 percent, the rally Monday seemed a welcome oasis for unapologetic Obama fever.
“I think about how we all felt on election night, on inauguration day,” said Michelle Obama.
“We knew we had a chance to change the country we love for the better. Now we have that same chance, and we have that same responsibility,” she said, interrupted once more by roaring applause.
Obama was introduced by Blumenthal, who is battling Republican Linda McMahon for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Chris Dodd.
“So much is at stake in this election. I may not have tens of millions of dollars,” said Blumenthal, referring the self-funded McMahon, “but I have something money can’t buy. I have you!”
In a short five-minute speech, Blumenthal outlined a resume of fighting against interests from health insurance companies to big tobacco as attorney general. “I have fought long, and stood by you. And that’s the kind of United States senator I want to be.”
Then Obama took the stage, echoing Blumenthal’s list of accomplishments.
“Dick has spent most of his career right here in Connecticut,” she said. “And his highest priority has always been protecting Connecticut’s families.”
But the first lady quickly shifted gears, moving to an energetic and unapologetic list of her husband’s accomplishments, from investment in elementary schools, community colleges and veterans health and security, to stem cell research, environmental protection and tax breaks for the middle class.
“And he’s appointed 2 brilliant, accomplished women to serve as Supreme Court justices,” she said, inciting huge cheers.
“These are just some examples of the kind of change we’re making,” she said. “It is because of all of you that so much has been accomplished in such a short period of time. This has been like, a year and a half. This is some good stuff!”
Obama acknowledged a general dissatisfaction with the administration.
“I know that a lot of folks are still hurting,” she noted. “I know that for a lot of folks change has not come fast enough. And believe me, I know change has not come fast enough for Barack or for Dick.”
But she asked for continued support. “Because in the end our campaign was never about putting one man in the Whitehouse,” she said. “It was about building a movement for change.”