Former president Barack Obama will host midterm campaign rallies in Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia at the end of October to boost Democratic Senate and gubernatorial candidates in the three presidential battlegrounds, his office announced Saturday.
The former president, who remains among the highest-profile Democratic surrogates nearly six years after leaving office, is expected to boast of Democratic accomplishments over the past two years while also expressing alarm over the state of American democracy. His advisers said more dates probably would be added to his midterm travel in the coming weeks.
“The great thing that I think we have going for us is that even with really slim majorities, what we’ve shown is that we can deliver,” Obama said in an interview Friday with “Pod Save America,” a podcast hosted by former aides in his White House.
“You’ve got the inflation control act that has lowered prescription drug prices, has made sure that health care is even more affordable through the ACA [Affordable Care Act], that is looking at lowering energy costs. You’ve got a gun bill that is the first major piece of gun safety legislation that we’ve seen in 30 years,” Obama said.
He will appear at an event in Atlanta on Oct. 28 and events in Detroit and Milwaukee on Oct. 29, his office said. Democratic Senate candidate Mandela Barnes of Wisconsin welcomed the visit in a statement, saying his original inspiration to enter public service was Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
“Could not be more excited to have him back in Wisconsin to join us on the trail,” Barnes said in a statement. Barnes is running against Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).
In the “Pod Save America” interview, Obama urged Democrats to focus less on former president Donald Trump and more on the underlying issues that most directly affect voters.
“We spend enormous amounts of time and energy and resources pointing out the latest crazy thing he said, or how rude or mean some of these Republican candidates behaved,” he said. “That’s probably not something that in the minds of most voters overrides their basic interests: Can I pay the rent? What are gas prices? How am I dealing with child care?”
But Obama also has devoted significant energy to raising concerns about the erosion of democratic norms since he left office. The Obama Foundation is planning a November “Democracy Forum” in New York City after the midterms, in partnership with Columbia University and the University of Chicago, with panel discussions on fighting disinformation, repairing democratic institutions, expanding pluralism and making capitalism more inclusive.
Obama also has been working behind the scenes to raise money for Democrats, hosting high-dollar fundraisers in recent months for the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, while also making direct mail and email appeals for those groups and other Democratic entities.
“What we’ve seen the last four years with a whole bunch of leading figures in one of our two major political parties is they’re not even faking it,” he said at a recent DNC fundraiser, according to excerpts of his remarks released by his office. “Essentially what they’ve said is that we fear we may be a minority party, our ideas aren’t selling, but if we can exploit some of the play in the joints of a creaky democracy, if we can work and game the system enough to exploit its anti-majoritarian trends or tendencies, we may be able to just seize power, even if we’re not getting the most votes, even if we’re not marshaling the most support from our population, and if we’re ruthless enough about.”
Obama’s public profile has remained much lower than that of Trump, who has been hosting regular mass rallies around the country for Republican candidates, as he continues to tease the possibility of running for president again in 2024. Obama has published the first volume of his memoirs and signed a production deal with Netflix.
A 2020 poll by Gallup rated Obama as the second most admired man among Americans, just slightly behind Trump and well ahead of President Biden. Former first lady Michelle Obama was rated as the most admired woman, well ahead of Vice President Harris and former first lady Melania Trump.