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Obama emerges as central figure in 2020 presidential race

17 Comments
By JULIE PACE
FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2016, file photo, Vice President Joe Biden, left, looks upwards while listening to President Barack Obama speak in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. Nearly eight years after he was last on the ballot, Obama is emerging as a central figure in the 2020 presidential election. Democrats are eagerly embracing Obama as a political wingman for Joe Biden, who spent two terms by his side as vice president. Obama remains the party’s most popular figure, particularly with black voters and younger Democrats. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File) Photo: AP

Nearly eight years after he was last on the ballot, Barack Obama is emerging as a central figure in the 2020 presidential election.

Democrats are eagerly embracing Obama as a political wingman for Joe Biden, who spent two terms by his side as vice president. Obama remains the party’s most popular figure, particularly with black voters and younger Democrats, and Biden’s presidential campaign is planning for him to have a highly visible role in the months to come.

For President Donald Trump, that means an opportunity to focus the spotlight on one of his favorite political foils. In recent days, Trump and his allies have aggressively pushed conspiracy theories about Obama designed to fire up the president’s conservative base, taint Biden by association and distract from the glut of grim health and economic news from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Partisans on both sides want to make this about Obama,” said Ned Price, who served as spokesperson for Obama’s White House National Security Council.

The renewed political focus on Obama sets the stage for an election about the nation’s future that will also be about its past. As Biden looks to Obama for personal validation, he’s also running to restore some of the former president’s legacy, which has been systematically dismantled by Trump. The current president is running in part to finish that job.

Yet Trump’s anti-Obama push also frequently takes on a darker, more conspiratorial tone that goes far beyond differences in health care policy and America’s role in the world. His current focus is on the actions Obama, Biden and their national security advisers took in the closing days of their administration, as they viewed intelligence reports about Michael Flynn. Flynn had a short-lived stint as Trump’s national security adviser before being fired for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his interactions with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.

Trump’s own administration acknowledged on Wednesday that Obama advisers followed proper procedures in privately “unmasking” Flynn’s name, which was redacted in the intelligence reports for privacy reasons. Flynn ultimately pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, though Trump’s Justice Department moved last week to drop the case against him.

Despite there being no evidence of wrongdoing by Obama, Biden or other administration officials, Trump is eagerly pushing the notion of an unspecified crime against the former president, branding it “Obamagate.” He’s being backed up by Republican allies, including Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley who took to the Senate floor this week to ask of the Flynn matter: “What did Obama and Biden know, and when did they know it?”

Trump’s zeal has sparked fears among some former Obama and Biden advisers about how far he may be willing to go in using the levers of government to push his case against them in an election year. The Justice Department is conducting an investigation into the origins of the Russia probe that ensnared Flynn and other Trump associates.

Trump’s renewed focus on Obama comes as Republicans grow increasingly anxious that the rising coronavirus death toll and cratering economy will damage the president’s reelection prospects in November. More than 84,000 Americans have died from the virus, and more than 30 million have claimed unemployment.

Biden’s campaign drew a direct connection between the president’s attacks on Obama and the twin crises battering his administration.

“It’s no surprise that the president is erratically lashing out at President Obama, desperate to distract from his own failures as commander in chief that have cost thousands of Americans their lives during this crisis,” said TJ Ducklo, a Biden campaign spokesman.

Trump’s emphasis on Obama also comes as the former president begins to emerge from a three-year period of political restraint as he prepares to embrace his role as leading surrogate for Biden. Last week, Obama told a large gathering of alumni from his administration that DOJ’s decision to drop the Flynn case put the “rule of law at risk.” He also criticized the Trump White House’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden’s campaign has been eager to get Obama involved in the election, though his exact role is still forming, particularly given that the pandemic has upended the campaign’s plans for rallies and other in-person events in battleground states. The former president is also expected to campaign for Democratic House and Senate candidates across the country.

Though Obama campaigned for Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms, he has mostly tried to avoid overt politics since leaving the White House. He’s spoken out publicly against Trump on rare occasions, frustrating many Democrats who have wanted him to be more aggressive in calling out his successor.

But the 2020 election has always loomed as the moment when Obama would step off the sidelines, and he’s told advisers he’s eager to do so. Despite his strident public neutrality during the Democratic primary, he spoke to Biden regularly and has continued to do so as the campaign moves into the general election, according to aides.

Biden’s campaign sees Obama as a clear asset as they seek to not only energize Democrats,but to also appeal to independents and more moderate Republicans who may be wary of four more years of Trump in the White House.

A recent Monmouth University poll found 57% of Americans say they have a favorable opinion of Obama. That includes 92% of Democrats and 19% of Republicans.

Obama’s favorable ratings are higher than either of the men who will be on the ballot in November. The same poll showed 41% of Americans had a favorable opinion of Biden, and 40% viewed Trump in a favorable light.

© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.


17 Comments
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How fitting yet not really unexpected. Biden may not be the best man for the job but he is no dummy. And having Obama backing him is a good reminder of what a Presidency used to be. And LBNL, Obama acts like a President and a gentleman.

2 ( +9 / -7 )

How necessary yet not really unexpected. Is BHO strong enough to carry “Tiny Tim” Biden on his shoulders? Will Jill Biden deliver the line “God bless us everyone” for Joe?

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

As Biden looks to Obama for personal validation, he’s also running to restore some of the former president’s legacy, which has been systematically dismantled by Trump.

Interesting!

Just a few months ago, Obama was distancing himself from Biden. Always interesting watching the Dem teams tactics.

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

A recent Monmouth University poll found 57% of Americans say they have a favorable opinion of Obama. That includes 92% of Democrats and 19% of Republicans.

OK. So about 1 in 5 Republican voters are reasonable people. Higher than I thought.

Despite there being no evidence of wrongdoing by Obama, Biden or other administration officials, Trump is eagerly pushing the notion of an unspecified crime against the former president, branding it “Obamagate.”

One thing about Trump, he's an equal opportunity accuser when it comes to baselessly slandering people. Just ask Joe Scarborough.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Hmm. Will Obama take responsibility for making China great again? He fed the Chinese technology, US consumers, universities from where students could learn, send back home US paid technology so they could then use against the US and other allies in a commerce war, which hopefully Will not end in a military war.

No thank you. Let’s not make America Obama again.

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

Biden needs to bring him out to hold Jabba to account for the way he has disgraced the office of the president and endangered the residents of the planet for the past 3 years.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Who is Jabba?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Biden may not be the best man for the job

Being a possible sexual predator, and all that.

Obama should distance himself from the man.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Just a few months ago, Obama was distancing himself from Biden.

He was staying out of the fray while the leader was chosen.

Hardly as you described it.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

OK. So about 1 in 5 Republican voters are reasonable people. Higher than I thought.

Of course, it's the high profile, vocal sort who dispense with logic in favor of the hyper-partisanship we've seen ove the last few years.

There were plenty of reasonable voters who were disillusioned with the system, and they believed that the Republican candidate might actually do some good by reforming it.

They were to be bitterly disappointed.

Just like those who believe that Biden will be good for their country.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Another worry (and one for us all, as we age) is mental faculties.

Both Biden and Trump can barely string a coherent sentence together. Which could possibly be useful for them if they ever have to face a sentence, (in future) but no good for the citizens of America. And indeed, the rest of the world.

It's disappointing that Obama has chosen to "endorse" Biden. But the Democratic old guard was never going to allow fresh ideas that Sanders championed. Not entirely disimilar from the Republicans, the creeping entropy that is the old guard, will cling onto it's (centre) right path. And as ever, the people will suffer from such lack of vision.

The future can still be changed, though.

The vision doesn't have to come from the tried and tested, the elite, the far right usual suspects.

It can come from the people.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

If Millennials, Gen X and Y have not learned from the last failed without realizing how he destryed the middle class then let Clueless Joe and 0bama back in.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

If Millennials, Gen X and Y have not learned from the last failed without realizing how he destryed the middle class then let Clueless Joe and 0bama back in.

Regardless of what you think of Obama, it's pretty easy to look back four years and see how the country was waaaaaaaay better than it is now.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

How we all look back fondly at the days when competence and honor were expected in our government. Trump seems to be trying to destroy America.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

*Obama acts like a President and a gentleman*

I agree. He is a wonderful actor.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

To date, Biden hasn't been investigated, tried and found guilty of anything.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

To date, Biden hasn't been investigated, tried and found guilty of anything

We won’t know until Durham is finished with his investigation, right now it’s too early to tell.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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