CHICAGO — Schoolteacher Jamie Worsek headed to President Barack Obama’s get-out-the-vote rally on Saturday, but it wasn’t because she’s enthusiastic about casting a ballot on Election Day.
“I’ve actually never been less excited to vote in my entire life. I think all the candidates are awful. I’ll do it because it’s like my basic patriotic duty,” said the 24-year-old Chicago resident who worked for Obama’s campaign in 2008.
While Worsek doesn’t need convincing, Obama headlined a rally a few blocks from his South Side home to energize other voters to try to fend off Republicans who want to claim his former U.S. Senate seat and the Illinois governor’s mansion.
It was Obama’s last stop in a day that also included appearances in Philadelphia and Bridgeport, Conn. It’s his latest flurry of campaigning in an effort to bolster his party ahead of Tuesday’s election.
“Chicago, I need you to keep on fighting. Illinois, I need you to keep on believing. I need you to knock on some doors. I need you to talk to your neighbors. I need you to get out and vote in this election,” Obama told a cheering crowd of thousands.
After concluding his 32-minute remarks, Obama hugged Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and also Alexi Giannoulias, the Illinois treasurer who’s in a tight race with Republican Congressman Mark Kirk for Obama’s old Senate seat.
Obama’s pep rally helped invigorate Pearl Ramsey of Chicago. The 36-year-old owner of a production company said she had been turned off by the negative tone of the campaigns in Illinois, which she called “toxic.”
“It really didn’t make me feel good about really any party,” she said. She said she always planned to vote Democratic but now she’s excited again after hearing Obama.
Both parties were working hard on the last weekend before Election Day to get voters to the polls.
Kirk and GOP candidate for governor Bill Brady made stops around the state before wrapping up with a rally of their own in a Chicago suburb. Kirk said Illinois voters are being called to change America’s direction as previous generations did during crises.
“You think about our parents and grandparents and what they did to win the Cold War, or the ‘Greatest Generation,'” Kirk told a GOP rally of about 300 people at a Northbrook hotel. “And now it’s our turn and our time, from the nation’s heartland, to make the greatest difference of any vote you’ve ever cast.”
The five-term congressman said Democrats want to ramp up government spending and raise taxes.
Before the rally, Kirk played down the potential impact of Obama’s rally. He predicted voters will separate his race against Giannoulias from their feelings about Obama.
“I think there’s a growing independent voice on behalf of less spending, less borrowing, certainly worry about new taxes in Washington,” Kirk said.
If Kirk wins Obama’s old Senate seat it would be an embarrassing loss for Democrats and another big win for Republicans who are trying to shift control of Congress. On Sunday, a GOP rally was planned in Chicago with Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, who claimed the late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s seat in a special election.
Illinois Republican Party chairman Pat Brady said Republicans in the state have mounted an aggressive get-out-the-vote effort over the past year and have made about 4.4 million outreach calls.
“I think this year we’ve beaten them at the get-out-the-vote effort,” Brady said.
Obama’s Chicago visit shows the Democrats are still trying to rally their base with just a few days to go before the election, Brady said. That’s a bad sign for Democrats, he said.
But White House adviser David Axelrod said it’s not a sign of desperation for Obama to come to Illinois, where Democrats currently control every statewide office, in the campaign’s final weekend.
“That’s the nature of politics,” Axelrod said. “The president was eager to come.”
Massage therapist Almeda McPherson said if Democrats sit out the Nov. 2 election they’ll learn their lesson if a Republican tide claims top Illinois offices and shifts control of Congress in Washington.
“The unintended consequences of whatever happens right now is going to shake a lot of trees,” the 64-year-old from Chicago said. McPherson had a simple message for Democrats who might not be motivated to vote: “Grow up.”
Associated Press Writer Charles Babington contributed to this report.