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Obama rallies for Sen. Murray as voters hit polls

SEATTLE – President Barack Obama accused Republicans of driving the economy “into the ditch” then asking for the keys back now that Democrats have pulled it out in an election day visit to help raise money for Sen. Patty Murray.

Obama met with small business owners in Pioneer Square, then attended two fund-raisers in or near downtown which raised an estimated $1.3 million to be split between Murray and the state Democratic Party.

Obama repeated his standard attack on Republicans as wanting to return to the policies of the Bush Administration, using the now familiar metaphor of a car in the ditch. Democrats went into the ditch, pushed it out, he said, to laughter and applause, “and it’s muddy and there are bugs and we’re sweating and shoving, pushing hard. And there all standing there sipping Slurpees and watching (saying) ‘you’re not pushing hard enough, that’s not the right way to push.’”

The economy is now about to go forward, and Republicans can’t have the keys back, he said

He praised Murray as someone who stands up for veterans, aerospace workers and health care reform and criticized Dino Rossi, the Republican most likely to make it through Tuesday’s primary, without mentioning him by name, for calling for the repeal of recently passed Wall Street reforms.

“He wants to go back to the old rules and the lack of oversight that caused the worst crisis since the Great Depression,” Obama said. “I mean, I could see him saying well, there are certain provisions I might modify. But to just say we didn’t need it when we almost had a complete financial meltdown – he’s counting on amnesia.”

The Rossi campaign responded quickly, saying that Obama had gone on the attack because he couldn’t defend Murray’s record of 18 years in the Senate.

“We witnessed how quickly this politics of hope can turn to the politics of desperate partisan attack,” Jennifer Morris, Rossi campaign spokeswoman, said. “If someone as eloquent as President Obama can’t defend her 18-year record of spending, taxing and growing government, who can?”

Rossi himself was in the Westin Hotel, where the fund-raiser was being held, for an interview with Chuck Todd of MSNBC. As he left, he said the president’s election day visit was a sure sign Murray was in truouble.

“Obviously, it confirms our polling or else he wouldn’t be here,” Rossi said as an aide hurried him to his next television interview.

Outside the hotel, a crowd of supporters gathered, but so did a potpourri of protesters. Some wanted Obama to end deportations for immigration violations, others wanted the U.S. to end wars in the Middle East or audit the Federal Reserve. Some members of the Tea Party unfurled “Don’t Tread On Me” flags and supporters of Lyndon LaRouche, a regular presidential candidate, held a large sign that showed Obama’s face with an Adolph Hitler-style mustache.

Before the Westin Hotel fund-raiser, Obama stopped at the Grand Central Bakery on the southwest corner of Pioneer Square, where he met with bakery co-owner Gillian Allen-White, Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria owner Joe Fugere, and Tiffany Turner, owner of the Inn at Discovery Coast in Longview, Wash.

All three businesses have added employees or opened businesses during the recession, but have struggled to obtain credit. After about 30 minutes of discussion with them, Murray and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, a former Washington governor, Obama said the kind of help they and other small businesses need is in a bill before the Senate.

Republicans have so far blocked the bill, but he called for the Senate to make it “the first out of the gate” when Congress returns in September and give it an up or down vote.

“There will be plenty of time between now and November to play politics, but the small business owners beside me and around the country don’t have time for political games,” he said.