With his own midterm ‘shellacking’ in mind, Obama returns to campaign trail to boost Democrats


Atlanta
CNN

Midterm elections have never been Barack Obama’s strong suit.

During his time in the White House, the 2010 and 2014 campaign seasons were the lowest points of his presidency, as Democratic control of the first House and then the Senate was washed away in some of the most humiliating defeats of his time in office.

“I’m not recommending for every future president that they take the shell like I did,” Obama said the day after Democrats lost 63 seats in the House in the midterms of his first term. “I’m sure there’s an easier way to learn this lesson.”

But as a former President, Obama is in high demand in the closing stretch of this election, opening a five-state tour here in Georgia on Friday night. He hopes to delay the prospect of a Republican wave that could deliver the same fate to his longtime partner, President Joe Biden, who is also on the trail, making a rare joint appearance with Vice President Kamala Harris in Philadelphia.

Obama has recorded nearly two dozen television ads for Democrats and the party’s campaign committee, with new ads appearing nearly every day this week. And he studied the limited details of various secretaries of state races, lending their names to fundraising efforts for this ballot contest that he saw as essential to protecting democracy.

“This is going to be a close race and we can’t go wrong,” Obama said in an ad for Cheri Beasley, the Democratic nominee for Senate in North Carolina, one of several personal messages he taped for all candidates. corner of the country.

After a visit to Atlanta on Friday, the former President heads to the critical battlegrounds of Michigan and Wisconsin on Saturday, followed by a trip to Nevada on Tuesday. He will then return to Pennsylvania for the closing weekend of the campaign, hoping to rally Democrats and boost turnout in the final days of early voting leading up to the Nov. 8 election.

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Democratic Rep. Nikema Williams, who is also the chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, said the former President has a unique ability to motivate and make a case for Democrats.

“A lot of people here are calling him President forever,” Williams, who represents the Atlanta-based 5th District of Georgia, told CNN. “We’ve been trying to encourage people to get out and vote early. He can help us drive that message home and drive home what’s at stake, not just for our base, but for young voters who remember some of the excitement of his election.

Like many two-term Presidents, Obama’s track record is always better when his own name is on the ballot. But he remains in high demand from Democratic candidates, many of whom shy away from requesting campaign appearances or television commercials with Biden, whose approval rating is 41% in a CNN Poll.

To date, Obama’s involvement in the midterms has mainly been through commercial tapings and fundraisers in August and September for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Redistricting Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee.

In a speech to some of the party’s biggest donors, the former President sounded the alarm about the threat to democracy in the Trump era.

“One of the things we’ve learned in the last six years is that democracy doesn’t do itself,” Obama said at a New York fundraiser last month.

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He raised his concerns during a recent interview with Pod Save America, a podcast hosted by a quartet of longtime aides from his presidential campaign and administration.

“Democracy is fragile. You have to lean into it, you have to fight for it,” Obama said. “And this midterm election, I think, is going to be the moment where that battle has to be consolidated, and that means people have to go.”

The former President’s fear of the erosion of democracy will be the theme of his speech in the coming week, his aides said, after the uproar fueled by false claims from former President Donald Trump about fraud that led to his loss in the 2020 presidential election and the number of Trump-backed election rejections is on the ballot for secretary of state in key states across the country.

It’s common for former presidents to campaign for up-and-coming candidates, but Obama’s foray into the secretary of state contest shows how some Democrats view the position as critical, suggesting that this year’s winner will control the primary election infrastructure during the 2024 presidential race.

“Given the high stakes of this year’s midterm elections, President Obama wants to do his part to help Democrats win next month,” said Eric Schultz, a senior adviser to the former President. “He hopes to prevent candidates from moving up and down the ballot, especially in races and states that will have ramifications for the administration of the 2024 election.”

The former President also focused heavily on key races in the Senate, where he served for two years before winning the White House. Like his time in the Oval Office, control of the Senate hung in the balance in November.

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In the latest ad recorded for Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan from New Hampshire, she said: “Your vote can make a difference on issues from abortion rights to voting rights. That’s why you need leaders like Maggie who will fight for you.

And voters in Pennsylvania, where the open Senate seat is the closest contest in the nation, Obama urged voters to support Lt. Governor John Fetterman.

“When the fate of our democracy and a woman’s right to vote is on the line, I know John will fight for Pennsylvanians,” Obama said. “You can count on John Fetterman. Make sure he can count on you.”

For Obama, the burst of appearances in advertisements and upcoming stops on the campaign trail is one of his most visible forays back into politics. He recognizes the strong headwinds facing the Democratic Party, aides told CNN, and remembers the limits of his ability to fight historical waves where the President’s party almost always loses seats in the midterm elections, as he did in 2010 and 2014.

His trip came after casting his own ballot, done with former first lady Michelle Obama last week in Chicago, which remains his official residence and where they built the Obama presidential library.

After thanking election workers for their critical role in the democratic process, Obama held his ballot and waxed nostalgic about how ballots were once cast in punch-cards that were intended to encourage direct-ticket voting.

“You know, I miss the punch thing, it’s fun,” Obama said with a laugh. “You can get out some aggression.”

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