Former President Obama is making his much-anticipated first post-presidential appearance on the campaign trail today, speaking at events for Democratic gubernatorial candidates in New Jersey and Virginia before elections there next month.
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Appearing at an event in Newark with Phil Murphy, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Germany during the Obama administration, the former president praised Murphy as the right choice for New Jersey voters.
“When Phil and his family said I’m ready to go, I’m willing to step out there and step into what can be a pretty tough political environment, I wasn’t surprised because I knew him,” Obama said, “I knew their character.”
Obama’s re-emergence comes as President Trump has taken aim at various parts of his legacy, including the Iran nuclear agreement and the Affordable Care Act and as the controversy around Trump’s interactions with families of fallen U.S. soldiers persists.
Obama did not name Trump directly in his remarks in Newark, but lamented the current state of politics in America.
“Some of the politics we see now, we thought we put that to bed. That’s folks looking 50 years back, it’s the 21st century, not the 19th century,” Obama said.
“We are rejecting a politics of division. We are rejecting a politics of fear,” Obama continued. “We are embracing a politics that says everybody deserves a chance, a politics that says everybody has dignity and worth; a politics of hope.”
The former president also told the crowd to ignore the polls and focusing on turning out as much grassroots support as possible.
“I don’t know if y’all noticed, but you can’t take any election for granted,” Obama said, “I don’t care what the polls say. I don’t care what the pundits say.”
Aides to the former president said Obama planned to stick to policy instead of political attacks on President Trump.
“It’s in no one’s interest – including the former president’s, the Democratic Party’s, or the country’s – for President Obama to become the face of any resistance or the party,” a senior adviser to the former president wrote in a statement to ABC News, “Instead, he is creating the space for leaders in the party to craft the best path forward that will make our country better.
“He is acutely aware that when he consumes political oxygen, it can stifle the attention that should be on current and emerging leaders in the party.”
Obama heads to Richmond, Virginia this evening for a rally with Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who is in a tight race with former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie.
Virginia is considered the only competitive statewide race in the nation this year, and a recent poll from Monmouth University gave Gillespie a 1 point edge over Northam, raising the stakes for Obama’s visit to the state with the election less than three weeks away.
The former president is still popular in Virginia, a state he won in 2008 and 2012.
The elections in New Jersey and Virginia will take place Nov. 7.