Barack Obama warned Democrats on Saturday that abortion rights, Social Security and even democracy itself is at risk should Republicans seize congressional majorities next week. “Sulking and moping is not an option,” the former president said in Pennsylvania.
“On Tuesday, let’s make sure our country doesn’t get set back 50 years,” Obama told hundreds of voters on a blustery day in Pittsburgh. “The only way to save democracy is if we, together, fight for it.”
He was the opening speaker in a clash of presidents past and present in the battleground state as each party’s biggest stars worked to energize voters on the final weekend of campaigning before election day on Tuesday.
Obama was accompanying Senate nominee John Fetterman, the lieutenant governor who represents his party’s best chance to flip a Republican-held seat. Later Saturday, they were to appear in Philadelphia with President Joe Biden and Josh Shapiro, the nominee for governor.
Democrats are deeply concerned about their narrow majorities in the House and Senate as voters sour on Biden’s leadership amid surging inflation, crime concerns and widespread pessimism about the direction of the country.
History suggests that Democrats, as the party in power, will suffer significant losses in the midterms.
Tight race in Pennsylvania
Former U.S. president Donald Trump will finish the day courting voters in the southwestern corner of the state, stumping for Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Senate nominee, and Doug Mastriano, who is running for governor.
The attention on Pennsylvania underscores the stakes in 2022 and beyond for the tightly contested swing state.
The Oz-Fetterman race could decide the Senate majority — and with it, Biden’s agenda and judicial appointments for the next two years. The governor’s contest will determine the direction of state policy and control of the state’s election infrastructure heading into the 2024 presidential contest.
Shapiro, the state attorney general, leads in polls over Mastriano, a state senator and retired Army colonel who some Republicans believe is too extreme to win a general election in a state Biden narrowly carried two years ago.
Obama acknowledged that voters are anxious after suffering through “some tough times” in recent years, citing the pandemic, rising crime and surging inflation.
“The Republican like to talk about it, but what’s their answer, what’s their economic policy?” Obama asked. “They want to gut Social Security. They want to gut Medicare. They want to give rich folks and big corporations more tax cuts.”
Biden keeping low-profile in battleground states
Obama has been the party’s top surrogate in the final sprint to election day. Biden, meanwhile, has been a far less visible presence in battleground states as his approval numbers sag.
Before arriving in Pennsylvania, the president was in California, where he upset some in his party for promoting plans to shut down fossil fuel plants in favour of green energy. The fossil fuel industry is a major employer in Pennsylvania.
“It’s also now cheaper to generate electricity from wind and solar than it is from coal and oil,” said Biden. “We’re going to be shutting these plants down all across America and having wind and solar.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. and chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the president owed coal workers across the country an apology.
The White House said Biden’s words were “twisted to suggest a meaning that was not intended; he regrets it if anyone hearing these remarks took offence.”
The president was in Democratic-leaning Illinois on Saturday to campaign with Rep. Lauren Underwood, a two-term suburban Chicago lawmaker who is in a close race.
In a speech, Biden ticked through several of his administration’s achievements, including the Inflation Reduction Action, passed in August. It includes a $2,000 cap on out-of-pocket medical expenses and a $35 monthly cap per prescription of insulin. The new law also requires companies that raise prices faster than overall inflation to pay Medicare a rebate.
“I wish I could say Republicans in Congress helped make it happen,” Biden said of the legislation that passed along party lines.
Oz trying to craft moderate image
The White House has worried privately for weeks that concerns about Fetterman’s health might undermine his candidacy. Fetterman is still recovering from a stroke he suffered in May.
Despite his lingering health challenges, Fetterman railed against Oz and castigated the former New Jersey resident as an ultra-wealthy carpetbagger who will say or do anything to get elected.
“I’ll be the 51st vote to eliminate the filibuster, to raise the minimum wage,” Fetterman said. “Please send Dr. Oz back to New Jersey.”
Oz has worked to craft a moderate image in the general election and focused his attacks on Fetterman’s progressive positions on criminal justice and drug decriminalization. Still, Oz has struggled to connect with some voters, including Republican voters who think he’s too close to Trump, too liberal or inauthentic.
WATCH | Trump looms large in Georgia midterm elections:
Trump’s late rally in Latrobe is part of a late blitz that will also take him to Florida and Ohio. He’s hoping a strong GOP showing will generate momentum for the 2024 run that he’s expected to launch in the days or weeks after polls close.
Trump has been increasingly explicit about his plans. At a rally Thursday night in Iowa, he repeatedly referenced his 2024 White House ambitions.
After talking up his first two presidential runs, he told the crowd: “Now, in order to make our country successful and safe and glorious, I will very, very, very probably do it again, OK? Very, very, very probably. Very, very, very probably.”
“Get ready, that’s all I’m telling you. Very soon,” he said.