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Friday, October 9 Local

Obama boosts minimum wage, Malloy

NEW BRITAIN -- With winds of war stirring in Ukraine and a tough midterm election test looming at home -- one that endangers first-term Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in a reliably Democratic state -- President Barack Obama promoted his initiative to raise the national minimum wage to $10.10 Wednesday in the gritty hardware capital of Connecticut.

Obama, echoing talking points from his State of the Union address in January, called on the nation to follow the lead of Connecticut and a handful of other states that have already embarked on similar plans to boost wages.

The 44th president was greeted lustily by a cross-section of leaders of the state's Democratic political machine, the black community and student body members at Central Connecticut State University, where he was joined on stage by four New England governors, including Malloy.

"Nobody who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty," said Obama, who was interrupted by applause multiple times. "And that's why it's time to give America a raise."

The glowing reception belied what has been a steady erosion of public confidence in Obama in Connecticut, where the Democrat's 45 percent approval rating is the lowest of his presidency in a state he carried twice by huge election margins.

It was also somewhat tempered by isolated demonstrations outside the packed gymnasium, as protesters waved the Ukrainian flag to protest the White House's response to the escalating aggression of Russia.

To help make his case for minimum-wage reform, Obama singled out Doug Wade, owner of Bridgeport-based Wade's Dairy, in the crowd. Wade took part in a recent round table in Hartford with U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, in which the disillusioned former Republican embraced the cause of raising the minimum wage, as he has done on newspaper opinion pages and in testimony before the General Assembly.

"The secret to success is to treat employees as part of the family," Obama said. "Doug showed me his paycheck when he was flipping burgers in 1970. He was paid the minimum wage, but it went 25 times farther (than today)."

Wade, 60, could not have predicted that he would become a household name in the national debate over the minimum wage when he met Perez, who also joined Obama on Wednesday.

"Two days later, I get a call from the White House," an "elated" Wade told Hearst Connecticut Media after the president's speech.

For Malloy, the ink barely had time to dry on a new Quinnipiac University poll showing the