Former President Barack Obama has kept kept out of the spotlight since leaving office, but he will soon start campaigning to help Democrats in November’s midterm elections. He is eager to help his party take back control of the House of Representatives, help vulnerable Senate incumbents win, and help state parties win legislative races in their own states.
The popular former president will start the campaign season by giving a speech at the University of Illinois on Friday. In the coming weeks he will also campaign for Democratic candidates in California, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
But, as it turns out not all Democrats want Obama’s help this year.
Unsurprisingly, Democratic candidates running in states won by Donald Trump in 2016 by large margins don’t see Obama’s involvement as a help to them.
There are a few Democrats in states that voted for Trump who say they hope Obama will campaign for them, mostly in the upper midwest. These candidates include Senators Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio). In all of these states Trump’s popularity has declined precipitously since the 2016 election, and they have large numbers of Obama supporters.
“We’re not going to use any surrogates. Surrogates are fine but we don’t need them. The race is myself and Matt Rosendale and that’s the way we want to keep it,” Tester said in an interview. Rosendale is his GOP challenger.
Asked if she thought Obama might show up in North Dakota, Heitkamp said: “Nope, no.”
“He threatened to campaign against me once so I don’t think he’s coming out there,” she said.
While Obama is very popular with many voters in the core Democratic base, especially young and minority voters, Democrats are afraid that his presence in battleground states may fire up conservative and the anti-Obama forces.
“Trump wants nothing more than a foil. He knows he can activate the other side,” said a source close to Obama. “Barack is going to be involved this fall in a very Obamaesque, smart way.”
Democrats believe that the most important way Obama can influence the November election is to motivate infrequent voters to vote in November. This will be the focus of his speech on Friday.
“He will echo his call to reject the rising strain of authoritarian politics and policies. And he will preview arguments he’ll make this fall, specifically that Americans must not fall victim to our own apathy by refusing to do the most fundamental thing demanded of us as citizens: vote,” said Obama communications director Katie Hill.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), said Democrats are thankful for Obama’s help but each individual candidate must decide whether to invite him to help campaign in their states.