ABC News' Jordyn Phelps and Sunlen Miller report:
President Obama went to bat for his friend, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, in Boston today — speaking at two fundraisers on the governor's behalf. The president told audience members that Patrick likely faces an uphill battle in his 2010 reelection campaign.
“Let's be honest, this is going to be a tough race,” Obama said. “Reelection is not a foregone conclusion, because times are tough and Deval is the first one to acknowledge that there are a lot of people hurting out there.”
Other candidates in the Massachusetts 2010 governor race have already raised more campaign funds than Patrick.
Amid the uncertainty of Patrick's reelection, the president was lavish in his praise of the governor.
“Since Deval took office, he has performed extraordinary things under extraordinarily difficult circumstances,” the president said. “There's not a tougher time to be governor than right now. And yet without losing his cool, without losing that steady inner calm that he has, Deval has gone about the business pushing through historic ethics reforms here in Massachusetts.”
The president highlighted Patrick’s initiatives on health care, education and renewable energy as examples of his leadership.
The president’s praise of Patrick did not stay on just the level of policy. He also endorsed Patrick on a personal level, emphasizing the depth of their friendship. The president recounted stories of mutual support between the two in their political journeys and recalled that Patrick used to be the one campaigning on his behalf.
“Deval supported me when I ran for the United States Senate in Illinois at a time when none of you could pronounce my name,” President Obama said, prompting laughter.
The president made the case that the hard economic times facing Massachusetts and the nation as a whole, reinforce the need for the leadership that Obama believes Patrick brings to the state.
In the middle of these remarks, a member in the audience interrupted the president by shouting, “We need health care!”
The President responded, “OK,” and continued, “I know these are tough times. I know folks are hurting. But I also know this: For the past three years, you've had leaders at the helm of this commonwealth during one of the most difficult periods in its history. And you've had a leader who's been willing to make tough choices in tough times without ever forgetting who he's working for.”
While the President’s appearance at the fundraisers was in support of Patrick, he pointed out that supporting leaders like Patrick is essential to his presidential political agenda.
"What happens in Massachusetts is going to have implications all across the country,” the President said. “I cannot succeed as president unless I've got good partners at the state level. … When the people of states reward courageous, hardworking governors like that [Patrick], that has implications for our national politics as a whole."
Both fundraisers were notable for not being full. Both of the downtown Boston ballrooms were only about half full — despite the presidential appearance. Tickets to the first event were priced at $6,000 a ticket and brought in about 150 attendees.
After wrapping up the second fundraiser in Boston, the president pushed on to Connecticut, where he campaigned on behalf of another Democratic colleague, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., before returning to Washington.
–Jordyn Phelps and Sunlen Miller