Obama, campaigning in Georgia, warns of threats to democracy

Oct 27, 2022, 10:14 AM | Updated: Oct 29, 2022, 9:00 am
Former President Barack Obama, center, stands with Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams an...

Former President Barack Obama, center, stands with Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and candidate for U.S. Senate, Sen. Raphael Warnock D-Ga., during a campaign rally Friday, Oct. 28, 2022, in College Park, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

COLLEGE PARK, Ga. (AP) — Former President Barack Obama returned to the campaign trail Friday in Georgia, using his first stop on a multi-state tour to frame the 2022 midterm elections as a referendum on democracy and to urge voters not to see Republicans as an answer to their economic woes.

It was a delicate balance, as the former president acknowledged the pain of inflation and tried to explain why President Joe Biden and Democrats shouldn’t take all the blame as they face the prospects of losing narrow majorities in the House and Senate when votes are tallied Nov. 8. But Obama argued that Republicans who are intent on making it harder for people to vote and — like former President Donald Trump — are willing to ignore the results, can’t be trusted to care about Americans’ wallets either.

“That basic foundation of our democracy is being called into question right now,” Obama told more than 5,000 voters gathered outside Atlanta. “Democrats aren’t perfect. I’m the first one to admit it. … But right now, with a few notable exceptions, most of the GOP and a whole bunch of these candidates are not even pretending that the rules apply to them.”

With Biden’s approval ratings in the low 40s, Democrats hope Obama’s emergence in the closing weeks of the campaign boosts the party’s slate in a tough national environment. He shared the stage Friday with Sen. Raphael Warnock, who faces a tough reelection fight from Republican Herschel Walker, and Stacey Abrams, who is trying to unseat Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who defeated her narrowly four years ago.

Obama will travel Saturday to Michigan and Wisconsin, followed by stops next week in Nevada and Pennsylvania.

For Obama personally, the campaign blitz is an opportunity to do something he was unable to do in two midterms during his presidency: help Democrats succeed in national midterms when they already hold the White House. For his party, it’s an opportunity to leverage Obama’s rebound in popularity since his last midterm defeats in 2014. Their hope is that the former president can sell arguments that Biden, his former vice president, has struggled to land.

Biden was in Pennsylvania on Friday with Vice President Kamala Harris and plans to be in Georgia next week, potentially in a joint rally with Obama and statewide Democratic candidates. But he has not been welcomed as a surrogate for many Democratic candidates across the country, including Warnock.

“Obama occupies a rare place in our politics today,” said David Axelrod, who helped shape Obama’s campaigns from his days in the Illinois state Senate through two presidential elections. “He obviously has great appeal to Democrats. But he’s also well-liked by independent voters.”

Obama tried to show off that reach Friday. The first Black president drew a hero’s welcome from a majority Black audience, and he offered plenty of applause lines for Democrats. But he saved plenty of his argument, especially on the economy, for moderates, independents and casual voters, including a defense of Biden, who Obama said is “fighting for you every day.”

He called inflation “a legacy of the pandemic,” the resulting supply chain disruption and the Ukraine war’s effects on global oil markets — a sweeping retort to Republican attempts to cast sole blame on Democrats’ spending bills.

“What is their answer? … They want to give the rich tax cuts,” Obama said of the GOP. “That’s their answer to everything. When inflation is low, let’s cut taxes. When unemployment is high, let’s cut taxes. If there was an asteroid heading toward Earth, they would all get in a room and say, you know what we need? We need tax cuts for the wealthy. How’s that going to help you?”

Biden has sought to make similar arguments, and was buoyed this week with news of 2.6% economic growth in the third quarter after two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

Yet Lis Smith, a Democratic strategist, said Obama is better positioned to convince voters who haven’t decided whom to vote for or whether to vote at all.

“If it’s just a straight-up referendum on Democrats and the economy, then we’re screwed,” Smith said. “But you have to make the election a choice between the two parties, crystallize the differences.”

Obama, she said, did that in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections “by winning over a lot of working-class white voters and others we don’t always think about as part of the ‘Obama coalition.'”

Obama left office in January 2017 with a 59% approval rating, and Gallup measured his post-presidential approval at 63% the following year, the last time the organization surveyed former presidents. That’s considerably higher than his ratings in 2010, when Democrats lost control of the House in a midterm election that Obama called a “shellacking.” In his second midterm election four years later, the GOP regained control of the Senate.

Still, Bakari Sellers, a prominent Democratic commentator, said Obama’s broader popularity shouldn’t obscure how much his “special connection” with Black voters and other non-white voters can help Democrats.

The Atlanta rally brought Obama together with Warnock, the first Black U.S. senator in Georgia history, and Abrams, who’s vying to become the first Black female governor in American history.

In Michigan, Obama will campaign in Detroit with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is being challenged by Republican Tudor Dixon, and in Wisconsin he’ll be in Milwaukee with Senate candidate Mandela Barnes, who is trying to oust Republican Sen. Ron Johnson. Each city is where the state’s Black population is most concentrated. Obama’s Pennsylvania swing will include Philadelphia, another city where Democrats must get a strong turnout from Black voters to win competitive races for Senate and governor.

With the Senate now split 50-50 between the two major parties and Vice President Kamala Harris giving Democrats the deciding vote, any Senate contest could end up deciding which party controls the chamber for the next two years. Among the tightest Senate battlegrounds, Georgia, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are three where Black turnout could be most critical to Democratic fortunes.

Axelrod said Obama’s turnabout from his own midterm floggings to being Democrats’ leading surrogate is, in part, a rite of passage for any former president. “Most of them — maybe not President Trump, but most of them — are viewed more favorably after they leave office,” Axelrod said.

Notably, during Obama’s presidency, former President Bill Clinton was the in-demand heavyweight surrogate, especially for moderates trying to survive Republican surges in 2010 and 2014.

Axelrod said Obama and Clinton have a similar approach.

“What Clinton and Obama share is a kind of unique ability to colloquialize complicated political arguments of the time, just talk in common-sense terms,” Axelrod said. “They’re storytellers.”

___

Learn more about the issues and factors at play in the 2022 midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections. And follow the AP’s election coverage of the elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections.

___

This story has been corrected to show Abrams, not Kemp, is trying to unseat the governor.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Mexico says tourists lost documents in fire on resort island

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Tourists and local people escaped unharmed from a large fire that raged in an area of hotels and guest houses on the island of Holbox, at the tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Mexican officials said Tuesday, Authorities said some tourists lost their documents to the blaze. It was not clear how […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Big tobacco tries to stop California flavored tobacco ban

SAN DIEGO (AP) — R.J. Reynolds and other tobacco companies filed a request Tuesday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to impose an emergency order to stop California from enforcing a ban on flavored tobacco products that was overwhelmingly approved by voters earlier this month. The ban was first passed by the state legislature two years […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Key allegations, witnesses as Trump Org. trial winds down

NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump’s inaugural address clocked in at just 16 minutes. Closing arguments are slated for Thursday in his company’s criminal tax fraud case? Prosecutors and defense lawyers say those could take seven hours or more. Those projections speak to the complexity of the case, which stems from longtime Trump […]
17 hours ago
FILE - In this aerial file photo provided by the National Park Service is the Junction Butte wolf p...
Associated Press

Montana judge restores state wolf hunting regulations

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana judge on Tuesday lifted a temporary restraining order that limited wolf hunting and trapping, saying there is nothing to suggest rules now in place will make wolf populations unsustainable in the short term. District Judge Christopher Abbott also rejected concerns raised by environmentalists that harvesting up to six wolves […]
17 hours ago
FILE - Residents who are fed up with the army's strategy of simply separating the Jalisco and the M...
Associated Press

Mexico high court upholds keeping military on police duties

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s Supreme Court upheld on Tuesday a constitutional change that allows the military to continue in law enforcement duties until 2028. The court ruled against appeals that argued law enforcement should be left to civilian police forces. Critics warned President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is militarizing the country, and ignoring the […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Texas woman pleads guilty to role in Vanessa Guillen’s death

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The only suspect arrested in connection with the killing of Vanessa Guillén at a Texas military base in 2020 pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges that included helping dispose of the soldier’s body near Fort Hood. Cecily Aguilar, 24, pleaded guilty in a federal court in Waco, Texas, to one count of […]
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
Obama, campaigning in Georgia, warns of threats to democracy