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As the midterms near, Barack Obama is getting off the sidelines

Obama is arguably the most popular national political figure in the United States — and he's finally hitting the trail in support of allied Democrats.


After one of Donald Trump’s recent rallies, a friend of mine asked me, “Why isn’t Barack Obama doing events like these?” I confessed that I didn’t have much of an answer.

It’s possible the former Democratic president doesn’t want to steal the spotlight from the incumbent Democratic president. It’s also possible that Obama is enjoying retirement and focusing on his library. Trump might be determined to keep Republicans under his thumb, but Obama doesn’t appear to have any ambitions about playing the role of party boss.

The problem for the former president, however, is that a whole lot of Democrats are eager to see him get off the sidelines.

Recent survey data is a little scarce — Obama left the White House nearly seven years ago, so pollsters no longer gauge his approval rating — but looking at YouGov polling, a majority of Americans still have a favorable opinion of Obama, which is more than can be said about the current president and his Republican predecessor.

In fact, it’s probably not much of a stretch to argue that Obama is currently the most popular national political figure in the United States.

With this in mind, his phone has been ringing quite a bit — and he’s started to answer it. NBC News ran this report last week:

Former President Barack Obama is heading to Wisconsin later this month to help boost Senate candidate Mandela Barnes, a Democrat challenging GOP Sen. Ron Johnson, as well Gov. Tony Evers’ re-election bid.

One day later, NBC News noted that his travel itinerary had grown longer.

Former President Barack Obama announced Saturday that he will be heading to Georgia and Michigan later this month to support Democratic candidates in the final weeks before the midterm elections.... “Given the high stakes of this year’s midterm elections, President Obama wants to do his part to help Democrats win next month,” the statement read. “He looks forward to stumping for candidates up and down the ballot, especially in races and states that will have consequences for the administration of 2024 elections.”

Yesterday, NBC News ran a third report along the same lines.

Former President Barack Obama is headed to Las Vegas next month to offer a much-needed lift to Democrats in one of the most pivotal battleground states in the country. Obama’s visit, scheduled for Nov. 1, is timed to energize voters in the final days of early voting, which ends Nov. 4 in the state. Early voting begins Saturday in Nevada.

To be sure, Obama’s appearances do not guarantee victories. Since leaving office, the Democrat has held several events for candidates, and their electoral track record is mixed.

But the fact remains that Obama is a unique figure on the national landscape, and he’s headed to four states, three of which he won twice with relative ease.

As for President Joe Biden, The New York Times reported that the incumbent Democrat has made trips in recent days to Colorado, California and Oregon, and he’ll be in Philadelphia today to support Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s Democratic Senate candidacy.

“[T]here will be no crush of voters packed into a stadium, no sea of colorful campaign signs, no presidential exhortations to ‘Vote! Vote! Vote!’ captured by TV cameras,” the Times added. “Instead, Mr. Biden and Mr. Fetterman ... will gather in a closed-door reception for invited guests only, the president’s brief remarks captured by a handful of reporters who will quickly be escorted out before the rest of the event. Mr. Biden will also give an official speech on infrastructure in Pittsburgh on Thursday, hours before the private reception.”