What to Know
- Speaking in front of the South Philadelphia Sports Complex with less than two weeks until Election Day, Former President Barack Obama delivered a sweeping condemnation of President Donald Trump.
- Obama blasted Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, his response to racial unrest and his fundamental unfitness for the job during a campaign rally in Philadelphia on Wednesday for Joe Biden, his former vice president.
- Obama is looking to increase the chances of high voter turnout in deep blue Philadelphia, which will be key for a Biden victory, along with surrounding suburban counties and a handful of counties in western Pennsylvania.
Former President Barack Obama blasted President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, his response to racial unrest and his fundamental unfitness for the job during a campaign rally in Philadelphia on Wednesday for Joe Biden, his former vice president.
“Donald Trump isn’t suddenly going to protect all of us," Obama said. "He can’t even take the basic step to protect himself.”
Speaking in front of the South Philadelphia Sports Complex with less than two weeks until Election Day, Obama delivered a sweeping condemnation of Trump.
"We literally left this White House a pandemic playbook," Obama said. "We don't know where that playbook went. They probably used it to prop up a wobbly table or something."
Obama also pointed out Trump's alleged bank account in China.
"Listen, can you imagine if I had a secret Chinese bank account when I was running for re-election? You think Fox News might’ve been a little concerned about that? They would’ve called me Beijing Barry," he said.
Obama also urged Black men, progressives and other voters not to sit out the Nov. 3 election.
“This election requires every single one of us to do our part. What we do these next 13 days will matter for decades to come,” Obama said at a drive-in rally of about 300 cars. He later warned: “The fact that we don’t get 100% of what we want right away is not a good reason not to vote.”
Obama is looking to increase the chances of high voter turnout in deep blue Philadelphia, which will be key for a Biden victory, along with surrounding suburban counties and a handful of counties in western Pennsylvania.
Obama was introduced by Charles “Charlie Mack” Alston, an entertainment industry and Philadelphia community leader, and his daughter, India Alston, who at 13 started a clothing line to raise funds and awareness for Black Lives Matter.
Specifically targeting voters who might be disillusioned, Obama offered a defense of the nation's decency and personal validation that Biden and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, can live up to it.
“America is a good and decent place, but we’ve just seen so much nonsense and noise that sometimes it’s hard to remember,” he said. “I’m asking you to remember what this country can be. ... I'm asking you to believe in Joe’s ability and Kamala’s ability to lead this country out of these dark times and help us build it back better.”
Obama pulled up to the Hank Gathers Youth Access Center Wednesday afternoon to speak to Black male leaders including Philly Congressman Dwight Evans, along with other political, nonprofit and local business leaders.
“I am so confident in Joe Biden and Kamala Harris surrounding themselves with people who are serious, who know what they’re doing, who are representative of all people — not just some people — and us being able to then dig ourselves out of this hole,” Obama said.
The Biden campaign said in a statement that North Philadelphia is still dealing with the impacts of redlining, structural racism, poverty, unemployment and gun violence. The meeting will address those issues and getting out the vote in this election.
Wednesday’s drive-in rally was the first time back in Philadelphia for Obama, who spoke in the city’s Museum of the American Revolution during the virtual Democratic National Convention earlier this year.
There, Obama seeks to encourage voters to make a plan to vote and get their ballot in early. In Pennsylvania, 2.8 million voters have requested mail-in ballots. In that count, nearly 1.8 million Democrats requested ballots versus just under 700,000 ballots requested by Republicans.
Gov. Tom Wolf, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Mayor Jim Kenney and multiple Philly-area Congressmembers also spoke at the event.
Biden's campaign headquarters are located in Philadelphia, and he has also made stops in the city, notably delivering a national address in City Hall during the unrest and protests against police brutality following the death of George Floyd.
Democrats hold an edge in voter registration in Pennsylvania, but the same was true in 2016, when the party lost. Biden is hoping backlash to President Trump, as well as his own Scranton roots, can help him flip the state back and springboard him into the White House.
During Wednesday's rally, Obama reminded voters of 2016, when Trump upset Clinton narrowly in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin to forge an Electoral College majority despite losing the popular vote nationally.
“We can’t be complacent,” Obama warned. “I don’t care about the polls. There were a whole bunch of polls last time. Didn’t work out because a whole bunch of folks stayed at home and got lazy and complacent. Not this time. Not this election.”
The roundtable was a personalized version of the same message, with the nation's first Black president urging Black men especially not to give into apathy. The host city, Philadelphia, is among the Democratic bastions in key battleground states where Black turnout four years ago fell off from Obama's 2012 reelection in large enough numbers to tip the election in Trump's favor.
Obama, 59, said he understood young voters' skepticism and disinterest, recalling his own attitude decades ago. “I’ll confess, when I was 20 years old, I wasn’t all that woke,” he said at the roundtable, adding that young Black men are “not involved because they’re young and they’re distracted.”
But he said not voting gives away power.
“The answer for young people when I talk to them is not that voting makes everything perfect,” Obama said. “It’s that it makes things better” because politicians respond to and reflect the citizens who cast votes.
“One of the biggest tricks that’s perpetrated on the American people is this idea that the government is separate from you,” Obama said. “The government’s us. Of, by and for the people. It wasn’t always for all of us, but the way it’s designed, it works based on who’s at the table.”
Despite the smaller scale, Democrats say that as one of the men who knows Biden best, both as his former partner in the White House and personally, Obama remains one of the party’s greatest assets in the final stretch of the campaign.
Obama has already been helpful to the Biden campaign, adapting to the shift to virtual events by focusing much of his work on getting younger Americans to vote. He’s appeared on Twitch, the video game streaming platform, pushed a voter registration message on Snapchat and recorded a video for the Shade Room, a Black-owned Instagram page and media company with 21 million followers.
Obama has appeared on two podcasts run by some of his former aides and has lent his name to texts and emails encouraging supporters to register to vote and donate money to the campaign. Obama has also been a big money draw for the campaign — he appeared at two virtual fundraisers with Harris this month and a handful prior to that. A grassroots virtual fundraiser Obama headlined with Biden in June brought in $7.6 million.
Obama has also been active for down-ballot Democrats, raising money for House Democrats and appearing in ads for some of the party’s top candidates, like Sara Gideon, running for the Senate in Maine, and for vulnerable incumbents, like Michigan Sen. Gary Peters. And he filmed a series of digital videos for the Democratic National Committee emphasizing the need for voters to make plans for casting their ballot.
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