Democrats look to Obama to save them from midterm bombing

With Joe Biden’s polling numbers stuck in the 1940s, the sitting president has largely been off the track in the final weeks of the campaign, opting for a mix of Washington-area speeches and headlining fundraisers. Into the void entered his former boss, who reminded crowds over the weekend that he remains – by far – his party’s most effective surrogate.

No one is more in demand than Obama. His team has been inundated with requests to speak, with Democrats imploring him to cut brief voting videos and congressional leaders leaning on him to headline fundraisers with them. It was reminiscent of when, as president, Obama issued endorsement lists that dipped so far into the ballot that some of the announcements looked more like a phone book than a standard press release.

Obama hit a trio of battleground states over two days to rally grassroots Senate and gubernatorial hopefuls in tough races. On Tuesday he will be in Nevada to do the same, before traveling to Phoenix on Wednesday and then to Pennsylvania alongside Biden the final weekend before Election Day.

Obama’s closing act is something of a role reversal for the former and current president from previous years. It was often Biden and his all-around appeal who was most valued in some of the country’s tightest races, especially those for the House. While Biden’s aides insist he has largely succumbed to the reality that his services are best suited at the moment in blue states – places such as Oregon, California and Maryland, where he should appear for the second time – he is publicly bristling with the suggestion that campaigns want him to stay away from them.

Although he is the party’s biggest draw and main grassroots motivator, there is an undeniable fear that even he may not be able to prevent what could end up being an inevitable bloodshed on November 8. Some Democrats also argue that for all his considerable talents at driving an argument, even Obama has struggled in the past to translate his own popularity and successes onto other members of his party. Democrats suffered heavy losses halfway through Obama’s presidency.

Still, most party members agree that there is no one they would rather have. And the public reaction has been quite positive. A single extract of Obama on the stump Saturday accusing the Wisconsin senator. Ron Johnson to protect his wealthy associates while jeopardizing Social Security has garnered over 12 million views. His portrayal of Herschel Walker as a football legend with no business in the Senate has led news reports in Georgia, where the senator is. Raphael Warnock tries to contain the Republican’s late surge.

After falling in Georgia for Warnock and Stacey Abrams, Obama’s video chatted with Rep. Karen Bassoffering his support to the longtime Democrat who gets pounded $100 million in publicity by developer Rick Caruso in the Los Angeles mayoral race.

Doug Herman, a Democratic strategist helping to guide Bass’s campaign, said Obama brings a voice of “pragmatism, hope and common sense that has been missing since leaving office.”

“His support is strongest for any Democrat in a contested race,” Herman said of the former president. “That’s probably why he got involved in the closest races.”

It was no secret that Obama would help bring attention to these races. But it was his articulation on the other side that dominated the headlines. In Michigan, campaigning for Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Obama described a Republican party that was completely enthralled with Donald Trump to the point of becoming obsessed with him.

“Pretty much every Republican politician these days seems obsessed with two things: owning the ‘libs’…and getting Donald Trump’s endorsement,” Obama said at the Detroit rally.

In Wisconsin, Obama became sarcastically nostalgic for the days when Trump wouldn’t give up on the birth plot and the idea that Obama was ineligible for the presidency. “Do you remember that was the craziest thing he ever said?” Obama said, never mentioning Trump by name. “Now that’s not even in the Crazy Top 10.”

And in Georgia, he dismissed Walker — whose grilling days as a Georgia Bulldog still spark positive associations in the state — as “a celebrity who wants to be a politician,” before adding that being “the one of the best running backs of all time” did not make him fit for public office. Obama joked that few people wanted his “old, skinny, slow butt” chased down the field with a defensive tackle.

He also spoke of the bouts of fatalism that have plagued his party since he took power nearly two years ago and struggled to pass legislation with his narrow majority – amid a slow economic recovery and growing threats to US institutions.

“I understand why people are anxious. I understand why you might be worried. I understand why it can be tempting to just tune out, watch football or ‘Dance with the Stars,’” Obama said. “But I’m here to tell you that going offline is not an option. Desperation is not an option. The only way to make this economy fairer is for us all to fight for it. The only way to save democracy is if we, together, cultivate it and fight for it.

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