Barack Obama hits campaign trail for Joe Biden in final stretch of White House race
As the 59-year-old Obama makes his first in-person campaign appearance -- at a drive-in car rally at a sports stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania -- President Donald Trump is to visit North Carolina, one of the battleground states key to victory on November 3.Updated: Oct 21, 2020, 23:43 IST
Former US president Barack Obama hits the campaign trail for Joe Biden on Wednesday in a bid to drum up support for his former vice president among young Americans and Black voters in the final stretch of the White House race.
As the 59-year-old Obama makes his first in-person campaign appearance -- at a drive-in car rally at a sports stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania -- President Donald Trump is to visit North Carolina, one of the battleground states key to victory on November 3.
Biden, 77, who is leading in the national polls, had no public events on his schedule for the third day in a row, leading the 74-year-old Trump to accuse his Democratic opponent of going “into hiding.”
The Biden campaign said the former vice president was preparing for the second and final debate against Trump, which is to take place in Nashville, Tennessee, on Thursday.
Obama remained on the sidelines during the Democratic presidential primaries but he threw his support behind Biden after his former deputy won the nomination.
The Biden campaign is hoping the star power of America’s first Black president will help boost turnout among young voters and African Americans, who are key to Democratic hopes of recapturing the White House.
African Americans voted in record numbers for Obama in 2008 and 2012 but their participation dropped off in 2016, a contributing factor to Trump’s upset victory over Hillary Clinton.
Obama appealed directly to young voters in a video released on Tuesday.
“One of the most inspiring things about this year has been to see so many young Americans fired up, organizing and fighting for change,” he said.
“Your generation can be the one that creates a new normal in America, one that’s fairer, where the system treats everybody equally, and gives everybody opportunity.”
Obama said there was a “growing movement for justice, equality and progress on so many issues” and “that momentum only continues if we win this election.”
“I know Joe better than almost anybody,” he added. “I trust him to be a great president. He’s on the right side of the issues.”
Trump has spent much of his first term in office seeking to erase the legacy of his predecessor but Obama doesn’t view the election “as a personal grudge match with Trump,” Obama’s former chief strategist David Axelrod said.
“He views it as an existential matter for the country and for democracy,” Axelrod told CNN.
Axelrod said Democrats had been strategic in having Obama make his first appearance on the campaign trail at this late date.
“In terms of his value, it’s been smart not to overuse him,” Axelrod said. “They’ve been using him in targeted digital appeals to constituencies that Democrats need to arouse in this election: young people and people of color.”
“He’s always understood if he was out there constantly, people would want to turn this into a Trump-Obama race,” Axelrod added.
While Biden has been keeping a low profile over the past few days, Trump is seeking to recapture the enthusiasm of four years ago with daily rallies in battleground states.
Trump’s message has been a mix of optimism, telling Americans that the worsening coronavirus outbreak is practically over, and ever more extreme attempts to tar Biden as corrupt -- even saying Tuesday that he wants the attorney general to open an investigation into his rival.
First Lady Melania Trump had been scheduled to join her husband in Erie, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday but -- in a reminder of the pandemic which has cast a shadow over his presidency -- she was forced to cancel at the last minute, complaining of a “lingering cough” following her own bout with the virus.
Trump is to hold an outdoors campaign rally in Gastonia, North Carolina, on Wednesday, an event the Biden campaign said violated the state’s coronavirus guidelines.
“President Trump still has no plan on how to get this virus under control,” the Biden campaign said in a statement.
“Instead, he is attacking our nation’s leading scientists and public health experts, continuing to spread deadly misinformation about the virus, and holding rallies that fly in the face of North Carolina’s Covid-19 guidelines.”
Democratic vice president Kamala Harris will also be in North Carolina on Wednesday, seeking to encourage voters to cast their ballots early.
At least 40 million Americans have already voted, according to the US Elections Project of the University of Florida, nearly 30 percent of the total turnout in 2016.
With the election less than two weeks away, Biden has an 7.9 point lead over Trump in an average of national polls, according to the RealClearPolitics website.