“There are two groups of voters that Biden needs to move,” said Dan Pfeiffer, former director of communications for the White House. “You have the 4 million Obama 2012 voters who stayed at 16, Obama obviously has a cache with them. And you have to persuade some voters who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and for Trump or a third-party candidate in 2016, and Obama obviously also performs very, very high with them. ”
Obama backed Biden in a video message in April, but kept a low profile in the primaries and largely avoided meddling in national politics. In recent weeks, however, he has resurfaced publicly to speak about the police and civil unrest that followed George Floyd’s police murder in Minneapolis.
Some Democrats say that, after Floyd’s murder, Obama’s voice is needed as Biden’s advocate and party leader.
“Biden does not have the strongest track record in criminal justice reform, so having Obama there is helpful in reinforcing that problem,” said Ben Tulchin, who voted for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ progressive presidential campaign.
“Given what is happening with criminal justice reform and Black Lives Matter, having the first African-American president to publicly endorse Biden is extremely helpful.”
But Obama’s revival is not without risks for Biden.
For the Trump campaign, it offers an opportunity to resurface some of his favorite political attacks, charges that the Obama administration’s policies undermined the American middle class and American interests abroad.
They believe that the focus on Obama will help revitalize the Trump base and will remind Trump’s bewildered voters, those who consider voting for Biden or staying home, their dissatisfaction with the previous administration. And they see an opportunity to open a gap between Biden and his base by resurging problems in the Obama administration, such as the high rate of deportations, that irritated progressives during the Democratic primary.
Trump’s deputy director of communications for the campaign, Ali Pardo, said that together, Obama and Biden “put ‘children in cages’ and could not prevent China from swindling the Americans while supervising the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression and the stagnant wage growth for American workers. “
Trump himself has pushed unfounded conspiracy theories about Obama, hoping to taint Biden by association.
Still, Democrats say Obama is eager to assume that Trump defends his legacy in a debate over policies that have best benefited Americans.
“Trump’s election has just devastated the country and Obama’s legacy,” said Tulchin. “Beating Trump is important to his legacy and important to the country.”
Biden’s embrace of Obama during the Democratic primaries also created some headaches for the former vice president within his own party.