Menendez rallies Obama supporters in Newark

NEWARK – Standing on a stage crammed with Essex County politicians in the Robert Treat Hotel, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-Hoboken) cranked up the volume tonight with a speech in support of the Democratic presidential nominee in front of a crowd calling itself “Latinos for Obama.”

Menendez made his remarks shortly before boarding a plane bound for Miami where he said Sen. Barack Obama (D-Il.) wants him campaigning for the next two days in advance of Election Day on Nov. 4th.

He capitalized on the long-time-coming sentiment in the large crowd of urban Democrats, less finally a specifically Latino group than a conglomerate of Newarkers bused in for the event from the city’s residential areas.

“You know, there’s a famous T-shirt, which says, ‘In New Jersey, only the strong survive,’” Menendez said. And now there’s another one for the country, he added: “We survived eight years of George Bush.”

“Thank God for the Constitution, and thank God for Barack Obama, who’s going to end this on Tuesday,” the senator cried.

He took time to bash Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) as a personifiedelongation of the Bush era, and drubbed the Joe the Plumber theme as an exercise in phony scare tactics.

“I guess you think the economy is good when you’re John McCain and you have eight homes and you can’t remember how many you have,” said Menendez, who also took a crack at the tone of the Republican presidential candidate’s campaign.

“I sit next to Barack Obama on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and I bristle when I hear people question his love of country,” he added. “We cannot have another four years like the last eight years; an America known more for the power of its bombs than the power of its ideas.”

Menendez went to biography – his own and Obama’s – to underscore what he finally believes the Democrat’s candidacy signifies: proof that everyone in America can get a shot when government helps the hand-over-hand efforts of individuals. In Menendez’s case it was Pell Grants and Perkins loans without which, he said, he would have been unable to attend St. Peter’s College in Jersey City and Law School at Rutgers-Newark.

“I was the first in my family to go to college,” he said. “I want that to be the birthright of every child in this county.”

Among the elected officials in attendance, state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), Mayor Cory Booker, North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos, At-Large Councilman Luis Quintana and At-Large Councilman Carlos Gonzalez built up the crowd for Menendez.

“When you look at Senator Bob Menendez, we can say, ‘Yes, we can, because he has,” said Ruiz.

Booker tried out his usual oratorical gymnastics, this time in Spanish, enjoying the sound of “vamos a tener un hombre con un nombre Barack Obama,” and the crowd roared its approval.

Menendez rallies Obama supporters in Newark