John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Thousands of people crowded into the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center in Boston today to hear President Barack Obama urge them to whip up enthusiasm around the state for Governor Deval Patrick’s bid for a second term.
As part of a national effort to help Democratic candidates, Obama arrived in the Back Bay with recent polls showing the gubernatorial race nearly a dead heat between Patrick and Republican challenger Charles D. Baker. The president said Patrick has qualities that make him stand above other candidates who are trying to ride the electorate’s prevailing mood of anger at government into office.
‘‘When too many folks bow to the politics of the moment, he represents the politics of conscience and conviction,’’ Obama said of Patrick, who sat on a stool beside the president. ‘‘In an age of too much cynicism, he has matched unbending optimism with unyielding effort to move Massachusetts forward.’’
Obama also repeated a critique of Republican policies he has been delivering around the country.
‘‘Between 2001 and 2009, we saw the most sluggish job growth since World War II,’’ Obama told the crowd. ‘‘If they win this election, a chair of the Republican Party has already promised that they’d pursue the same agenda. It’s an agenda that turned a record surplus to a record deficit.’’
Later in the day, the president attended a fund-raiser in Newton hosted by Dr. Ralph de la Torre, the chief executive of the Caritas Christi Health Care network, which operates St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center and other Catholic hospitals. The event raised $900,000 for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, officials said.
About 75 people gathered in a room with a vaulted ceiling and a fireplace made of fieldstone. Also speaking at the fund-raiser was US Senator John F. Kerry, of Massachusetts.
‘‘This is a tough year as every single one of you knows and nobody knows that better than the president of the United States,’’ Kerry told the small audience.
That tough year began with another high-stakes effort by Obama to help a Massachusetts Democrat in a difficult race. The president swept into the state in January to make a last-minute appeal for Attorney General Martha Coakley, who was running in the special election to replace the late US senator Edward M. Kennedy.
Despite Obama’s entreaties, Massachusetts voters chose Republican Scott Brown.
Obama and Patrick, old friends with Chicago roots and Harvard degrees, have campaigned together before. Obama addressed rallies on behalf of Patrick four years ago during his first campaign for governor, and Patrick rallied for Obama two years ago when Obama was running for president.
The race between Patrick and Baker appears to be extremely close, according to recent polls, with one showing the governor clinging to a narrow lead. Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, running as an independent, is a distant third, according to most polls, with Green-Rainbow Party candidate Jill Stein in fourth.
Baker appeared at a Town Hall-style meeting today at the Waltham Sons of Italy, where he focused his remarks on Patrick, saying the governor had four years to ‘‘right the fiscal ship,’’ but ‘‘didn’t get the job done.’’
‘‘Why should we rehire him?’’ Baker said of Patrick. ‘‘It’s four more years of what we just had: higher taxes, more spending, fewer jobs.’’
In remarks to reporters afterward, Baker said Obama’s campaigning for Patrick proves he has made major inroads against the incumbent governor.
‘‘I just think that the president’s presence here in Massachusetts is an indicator about the fact that our campaign has a tremendous amount of momentum,’’ Baker said. ‘‘I just think it’s one more indication about how hard [Patrick is] going to work to hold on to power.’’
Cahill, meanwhile, met with a small group of people attending a 10th anniversary commemoration of Millennium Park in West Roxbury. Despite a modest turnout that included about 15 supporters, Cahill said he will continue his campaign full force until Election Day.
‘‘It’s a race. People will decide what they want, but I’m going to keep putting myself out there,’’ he said.
Before Obama spoke in the cavernous hall at the Hynes today, Patrick delivered a version of his stump speech, raising his voice with fervor to stir his sign-waving supporters.
‘‘Four years ago we worked hard together to change the guard,’’ he said. ‘‘Now, we need to work to guard the change.’’
Among the accomplishments the governor attributed to his tenure: boosting education with an infusion of new federal money, providing health insurance to a higher percentage of people than any other state, and becoming the first state to approve an offshore wind farm. He also said Massachusetts has added more than 66,000 jobs this year and its economy is growing at twice the national rate.
‘‘I believe we should be in this to fight for your jobs, not mine,’’ Patrick said. ‘‘I believe in the politics of conviction, not the politics of convenience. I believe in leadership that asks us to turn to each other, not on each other — because there are real needs.’’
Among those who preceded Patrick on the stage was musician James Taylor, who sang ‘‘America the Beautiful’’ and his classic ‘‘Ain’t it good to know you’ve got a friend,’’ which he dedicated to Patrick.
Patrick campaign officials estimated that as many as 16,000 people came to the rally.
When the president took the stage, the thousands in the convention center roared with approval and Obama urged them to help turn out the vote on Nov. 2.
‘‘You didn’t elect him to do what was easy,’’ Obama said of Patrick. ‘‘You elected him to do what was right, and that is exactly what he has done.’’
At the fund-raiser in Newton later in the afternoon, Obama again acknowledged the difficult political environment, but stressed that voters’ anxiety is fueled by one of the worst economic downturns to hit the country since the Great Depression.
‘‘The country is scared, and they have good reason to be,’’ the president said. ‘‘And that’s why this election is so absolutely critical, because essentially you can respond in a couple of ways to a trauma like this. I mean, one is to pull back, retrench, respond to your fears by pushing away challenges, looking backwards. And another is to say we can meet these challenges and we are going to move forward.’’
As the president spoke inside de la Torre’s home, neighbors on Howland Road gathered outside to witness the spectacle of a presidential visit. De la Torre’s next door neighbors held a homemade sign addressed not to the president, but his two daughters: ‘‘Can Malia and Sasha come out and play?’’ It was signed by ‘‘Caroline (10)’’ and ‘‘Grace (5).’’
Andrew Ryan and Martin Finucane of the Globe staff and correspondents Sean Teehan and Ashley Portero contributed to this report. David Abel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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