The midterm elections were never Barack Obama’s favorite.
During his time in the White House, the 2010 and 2014 campaign seasons were among the lowest points of his presidency, as Democratic control of first the House and then the Senate overturned some of the more modest defeats of his tenure.
“I don’t recommend that every future president take a flak like I did,” Obama said a day after Democrats lost 63 House seats in the middle of his first term. “I’m sure there are easier ways to learn these lessons.”
But as a former president, Obama is in high demand at the end of this election, opening a five-state tour here in Georgia Friday night. He hopes to slow the prospect of a Republican wave that could deliver a similar fate to his longtime running mate, President Joe Biden.
Obama has taped nearly two dozen television ads for Democrats and the party’s campaign committees, with new ads appearing nearly every day this week. And he has analyzed the limited details of several secretary of state races, lending his name to fundraising efforts for these down-ballot contests that he sees as vital to protecting democracy.
“This is going to be a close race and we can do no wrong,” Obama said in an ad for North Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Cheri Beasley, one of the personalized messages he recorded for the candidates. corners of the country
After his visit to Atlanta on Friday, the former president heads to critical battlegrounds in Michigan and Wisconsin on Saturday, followed by a trip to Nevada on Tuesday. He will then return to Pennsylvania for the final weekend of the campaign, hoping to rally Democrats and increase turnout in the final days of early voting for the Nov. 8 election.
Democratic Rep. Nikema Williams, who is also chairwoman of the Georgia Democratic Party, said the former president has a unique ability to motivate and advocate for Democrats.
“A lot of people here are calling him their forever president,” Williams, who represents the 5th District of Atlanta, Georgia, told CNN. “We tried to encourage people to go out and vote early. It can help us drive home that message and drive home what’s at stake, not only for our base, but for young voters who remember some of the excitement around his election.”
Like many two-term presidents, Obama’s career has always been much better when his name is on the ballot. Still, demand remains high from Democratic candidates, many of whom are shying away from requesting campaign appearances or TV ads with Biden, whose approval rating is at 41 percent in CNN Polls.
So far, Obama’s involvement has included taping midterm ads and holding fundraisers in August and September for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Reunification Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee.
In speeches to some of the party’s biggest donors, the former president sounded the alarm about the threats to democracy in the Trump era.
“One of the things we’ve learned over the last six years is that democracy is not self-executing,” Obama said at a New York fundraiser last month.
He heightened his concerns in a recent interview with Pod Save America, a podcast hosted by a quartet of longtime aides to his presidential campaign and administration.
“Democracy is fragile. You have to tempt, you have to fight for it,” Obama said. “And this midterm election, I think, is going to be a time when that fight has to come together, and that means people have to show up.”
The former president’s fears about the erosion of democracy will be a theme in his remarks next week, aides said, following the chaos fueled by false claims of fraud after former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election. Trump-backed election deniers on the ballot for secretary of state in key states across the country.
It’s unusual for a former president to campaign for down-ballot candidates, but Obama’s entry into the secretary of state races shows how critical some Democrats view the office, given that this year’s winners will control key election infrastructure in 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, the former president’s senior adviser. “Look forward to the candidates going up and down at the polls, especially in races and states that will have implications for the administration of the 2024 election.”
The former president is also intensely focused on Senate races, where he served for two years before winning the White House. As during his time in the Oval Office, control of the Senate hangs in the balance in November.
In a recent ad recorded by New Hampshire Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan, she said, “Your vote can make a difference in everything from abortion rights to voting rights. That’s why you need leaders like Maggie who will fight for you.”
And to voters in Pennsylvania, where the open Senate seat is one of the closest races in the nation, Obama urged voters to support the state’s governor, John Fetterman.
“When the fate of our democracy and a woman’s right to choose are at stake, 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 ads and upcoming campaign stops is one of his most notable attempts to return to politics. The Democratic Party acknowledges the headwinds it is facing, aides told CNN, and is mindful of the limits of its ability to weather the tides of history, where a president’s party almost always loses seats in midterm elections, as it did in 2010 and 2014.
He made the trips after last week’s vote with former first lady Michelle Obama in Chicago, which remains their official residence and where the Obama presidential library is under construction.
After thanking election workers for their critical role in the democratic process, Obama held up his ballot and waxed nostalgic about the ballot that once strongly encouraged punch-card voting.
“You know, I miss the punching thing, that was fun,” Obama said with a smile. “You can bring out some aggression.”