President Obama breezed through Boston Wednesday, in town less than three hours to help Democrats fortify U.S Representative Edward J. Markey’s campaign for U.S. Senate.
But, first, the leader of the free world needed a burger.
En route to the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center after landing at Logan Airport, Obama stopped in at Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe, the venerated Columbus Avenue eatery. A jacketless Obama, sleeves rolled up, ordered a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, mustard, and french fries, to go, and left a $20 bill on the $8 tab, said Charlie’s staff.
From there, Obama was off to a Markey rally, where he exhorted Democrats to turn out in the June 25 special election to replace John F. Kerry. Markey is running against Republican nominee Gabriel E. Gomez, a private equity investor and former Navy SEAL.
“I need Ed Markey in the United States Senate,” he told the crowd at the Roxbury Crossing facility.
Still spooked by the memory of the 2010 special election when Scott P. Brown won the seat long held by Edward M. Kennedy, Democrats are campaigning vigorously in the final weeks of the Senate campaign. On Saturday, former president Bill Clinton is scheduled to stump for Markey in Worcester.
Markey, sweat beaded on his forehead, worked the crowd after Obama had left the arena Wednesday. The rally marked a pivot point for the campaign as it ramps up its get-out-the-vote effort, Markey told the Globe in a short interview.
“What the president does is he comes in as the guy that frames the final 13 days, so everyone’s energy ratchets up to another level,” Markey said.
A night earlier, at a Washington fund-raiser for Markey, Vice President Joe Biden warned that the 37-year congressman will not benefit from presidential tailwinds atop the ballot.
“Barack Obama’s not at the head of the ticket,” Biden said. “And that means those legions of African-Americans and Latinos are not automatically going to come out. No one has energized them like Barack Obama. But he’s not on the ticket. So don’t take this one for granted.”
Gomez spent the day campaigning with soldiers in Chelsea and high-tech workers in Waltham, but the president’s visit Wednesday commanded the campaign spotlight.
Gomez invited the president to campaign with him in Chelsea, the latest in a string of attempts to prove he is not a party-line Republican. He later accused Markey of marching in lockstep with Democrats.
“What Washington needs more than ever is not another hyperpartisan politician,” said Gomez campaign adviser Lenny Alcivar. “Washington needs a bipartisan problem-solver who’s not tied to the old ways of doing business and has the courage to reach across the aisle and work with Democrats to get things done.”
Gomez again took an opportunity to break with a national GOP figure by slamming U.S. Representative Trent Franks, who on Wednesday said that “the incidents of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.”
Gomez wasted little time before ripping the Arizona Republican.
“I think that he’s a moron and he proves that stupid has no specific political affiliation,” Gomez told ABC News. He added, “I have no idea what goes into the mind of a moron like that. These kinds of comments only come from a moron, and they shouldn’t be tolerated one bit.”
Two polls released Monday showed Gomez within 7 percentage points of Markey, an uncomfortably close margin for many Democrats, but one they hope to build upon with a vote turnout operation that propelled Patrick and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren to victory.
Even as the Obama administration grapples with a spate of controversies that have rocked Washington, Markey’s campaign has steadfastly maintained that the Senate election stands as a referendum on Obama’s presidency.