BOSTON (AP) _ Democrats and Republicans ramped up election eve get-out-the-vote efforts Monday in their close battle for a Massachusetts Senate seat that could decide the fate of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul and the rest of his agenda.
In the campaign's final hours, Democrat Martha Coakley rolled out a new TV ad featuring Obama at a rally with her in Boston a day earlier.
“Martha knows the struggles Massachusetts working families face because she's lived those struggles. She's fought for the people of Massachusetts every single day,'' Obama is shown saying in the spot during a gymnasium rally at Northeastern University. He says she “took on Wall Street'' as attorney general, while going after big insurance companies and predatory lenders. “Every vote matters, every voice matters. We need you on Tuesday,'' he adds.
The commercial came one day before Tuesday's special election for the late Edward M. Kennedy's Senate seat. Obama needs Coakley to win to deny Republicans the ability to block his initiatives with a 41st filibuster-sustaining GOP vote.
As the final day of campaigning began, Coakley told over 1,000 at a Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast in Boston that the voting is a chance to act on the civil rights leader's dream.
“If Dr. King were here today, he'd be standing with us,'' she told the heavily black audience. “And I know that he would be standing with us on the front line for health care, not as a privilege, but as a right.''
The Massachusetts attorney general also laid blame for the country's current economic problems not with Obama, but his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.
“I wish there were easy answers to the tough problems we have,'' Coakley said, echoing an Obama refrain. “Do not forget that they are problems that were not created by, but inherited by, our president, Barack Obama.''
Coakley's rival in the suddenly tight race, state Sen. Scott Brown, also attended the event but wasn't on the speaking program.
A third candidate in the race, Joseph L. Kennedy, a Libertarian running as an independent, said Monday he's been bombarded with tens of thousands of e-mails from supporters of Brown from across the country urging him to drop out and endorse Brown.
“We had to shut down our e-mail account,'' said Kennedy, who said he's staying in the race until the end. “They're accusing me of being responsible for Obamacare.''
Both Kennedy and Brown oppose the health care bill, but Kennedy said those sending the e-mails feared he could draw votes from Brown and help Coakley, who supports the bill. Kennedy, who is polling in the single digits, is no relation to the late senator.
The Brown campaign said it hasn't urged supporters to e-mail Kennedy.
Coakley has seen the double-digit lead she had two weeks ago evaporate under a strong challenge by Brown.
Voter turnout is normally low in special elections, but even in staunchly Democratic Massachusetts, apprehension about Obama's health care overhaul is fueling a huge wave of populist support for Brown. Another imponderable is a fresh winter snow that could cause hardships for people trying to get out to vote.
Polls show that independents, who make up 51 percent of the state's electorate, have responded enthusiastically to Brown. His campaign is targeting them as well Republicans, who are outnumbered by Democrats 3-to-1 in the Bay State.
Preparing for the worst, the White House and Democratic allies in Washington tried to plot a way to salvage their health care package if Brown wins. One scenario would push House Democrats to accept the health care bill the Senate passed last month even though it offers fewer people coverage.
Trying to wrest back the populist mantle, Obama told supporters Sunday that a vote for Brown was a vote to protect Wall Street at the expense of ordinary Americans. The president last week proposed a tax on banks to close a deficit in a bailout fund they and automakers tapped during the financial crisis. Brown and other Republicans oppose the tax, saying it will trickle down to consumers.
“Martha's opponent already is walking in lockstep with Washington Republicans,'' Obama told a rally crowd. “She's got your back; her opponent's got Wall Street's back.''
Democrats insist that the new assault on Wall Street is working and that voters have started to respond. Party officials said 3,500 campaign volunteers contacted 575,000 voters on Saturday alone, and they claim a 15-percent increase in likely Democratic participation since Friday.
GOP leaders nationwide asked supporters to pitch in to help Brown's campaign.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney sent out an e-mail asking his backers to make calls on Brown's behalf, even though Brown has largely distanced himself from Romney, whose popularity has ebbed in the state.
Former Bush White House adviser Karl Rove used his Twitter account to link to a phone-bank site, while Sen. John McCain, Obama's rival in the 2008 presidential contest, is promoting Brown on his political action committee's Web site.
The two GOP rivals for a Florida Senate seat, Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio, both urged their supporters to get involved in Brown's campaign.
The Coakley and Brown campaigns also were bombarding supporters with automated phone calls. The Democrats used appeals from Clinton and Obama, while Republicans have relied on calls from Brown himself and beloved Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling.
Concern among Democrats about turnout has been palpable. At a largely black church service Sunday, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino implored congregants to call at least 10 friends and make sure they planned to vote Tuesday.
At a Coakley rally in Hyannis Sunday, state Senate President Therese Murray went the high-tech route. “We need you on Facebook, on YouTube, on e-mail, texting … however you communicate,'' she said, encouraging supporters to use those tools as a way to get their friends to show up at the polls.
AP National Political Writer Liz Sidoti contributed to this report.
Pictured above are Martha Coakley, left, and Scott Brown, right.