Former President Obama has recorded dozens of last-minute messages for Democratic candidates across the country, a below-the-radar push to get voters to the polls ahead of next week’s midterm elections.
Obama has recorded more than 50 messages — some robocalls, some videos that campaigns can spread through Facebook or text messages. A few have already been sent to voters, and others are likely to be sent in the final days before Tuesday’s elections.
“In the months leading up to the midterms — when he could have an impact — he has been making an aggressive case for Democratic candidates,” said Eric Schultz, a senior adviser to the former president.
The messages are meant to drive turnout, especially among core Democratic constituencies who often sit out midterm elections. At the same time, they can be sent at the last minute, to avoid inflaming Republican voters who do not like Obama.
“We are acutely aware that Democrats have a mixed record of success when President Obama is not on the ballot, and that he can galvanize opponents,” Schultz said in an email. “That’s why we focused this year on tailored [get-out-the-vote] strategies designed to move the needle for candidates.”
When Obama recorded a robocall for Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), the Jones campaign sent the call to African-American voters the day before the Dec. 12 special election so that Republicans did not have the time to make hay of Obama’s involvement in a deeply conservative state.
Some Democrats have made clear they do not want to campaign with Obama. He has not appeared alongside Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMissouri county issues travel advisory for Lake of the Ozarks after Memorial Day parties Senate faces protracted floor fight over judges amid pandemic safety concerns Amash on eyeing presidential bid: ‘Millions of Americans’ want someone other than Trump, Biden MORE (D-Mo.), even though the two are close; McCaskill was one of the first Senate Democrats to endorse Obama during his 2008 presidential bid against then-Sen. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE (D-N.Y.).
But Obama held a fundraiser for McCaskill in California in May. He has also appeared at fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and for Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick Casey21 senators urge Pentagon against military use to curb nationwide protests Overnight Health Care: Trump says US ‘terminating’ relationship with WHO | Cuomo: NYC on track to start reopening week of June 8 | COVID-19 workplace complaints surge 10 things to know today about coronavirus MORE (D-Pa.).
Obama has been more active in this year’s midterm elections than some previous ex-presidents. Since Labor Day, Obama has held rallies for candidates in California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Wisconsin and Michigan. On Friday, he will hold a rally with Democratic candidates in Florida and Georgia, and he has stops planned on Sunday in Indiana and Illinois.
Two videos Obama recorded on platforms geared toward younger voters — NowThis and ATTN — have generated almost 50 million views, Obama’s office said. About 700,000 of those viewers clicked through to Vote.org, a nonprofit website that gives information about voter registration and early voting.
Unlike some previous presidents, Obama has been much more willing to criticize his successor, both implicitly and explicitly. In a speech at the University of Illinois last month, Obama said President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE was “capitalizing on resentments.”
Trump himself has hit the campaign trail hard, stumping several times a day for Republican candidates across the country. Trump has held 21 rallies since Labor Day, with another nine scheduled before Tuesday’s election.
Former President George W. Bush has also hit the campaign trail for some of his fellow Republicans, though in a much quieter manner than Obama. Bush headlined fundraisers for Republican candidates in Florida, Texas and North Dakota in September, and for Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyGOP senators introduce resolution opposing calls to defund the police No evidence of unauthorized data transfers by top Chinese drone manufacturer: study Senate Democratic campaign arm launches online hub ahead of November MORE (R-Ariz.) in October.
Former Presidents Clinton and George H.W. Bush have stayed off the campaign trail this year. Former President Carter campaigned last month with Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor in Georgia, the job that launched Carter to the White House in 1976.