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Obama’s Midwest barnstorms at stake to save Democrats’ ‘blue wall’


MILWAUKEE — Barack Obama did the unthinkable in his 2008 presidential bid, voting en masse to solidify a “blue wall,” with decisive victories in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Now, 14 years later, Democrats are desperate to capture even a spark of Obama magic if they want to hold the US Senate on November 8 and ensure that some battleground governorships remain. in the hands of the Democrats, even if they are locked into one. dead heat race after another.

“Barack Obama is still the most popular figure in the Democratic Party and the most credible messenger right now, especially when we’re trying to remind grassroots Democratic voters what’s at stake in this election,” said Sachin Chheda, a Democratic strategist based in Wisconsin. .

On Saturday, the former president stirred crowds in Milwaukee and Detroit, playing both statesman and sometimes stand-up comedian, hitting Republicans with slights over what he described as their extremism and their contradictions.

Hundreds of people flocked to North Division High School in Milwaukee, hoping to catch a glimpse of Obama as he rallied all of the state’s candidates, including the state’s star races: Mandela Barnes for the Senate and the re-election of Governor Tony Evers.

He sharply criticized Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson for giving tax breaks to donors who received them at the same time he suggested funding for Medicare and Social Security be reconsidered. every year.

Obama singled out Johnson for helping institute tax breaks for private planes, noting that his adult children own “not one, not two, but three private planes — because carpooling apparently wasn’t an option.” he said laughing.

He then became fiery, shouting as the crowd cheered and whistled, saying Johnson understood getting tax breaks for private jets “more than he understands that seniors who have worked their whole lives can take their retire with dignity and respect”.

Obama’s Midwest barnstorms at stake to save Democrats’ ‘blue wall’
Former President Barack Obama speaks during a rally with Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, left, and Democratic Wisconsin U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes Saturday in Milwaukee.Scott Olson/Getty Images

In Detroit, Obama also attacked Republicans and said the party failed to live up to basic democratic standards. At one point, Obama was interrupted by a protester who tried to yell at him.

“Listen, listen – hey, wait, wait – wait, wait – wait a minute! This is – listen everyone – hey, y’all out there pay attention,” Obama told the protester. “Not only is this an example of what I’m talking about, but it’s also an example of how we get distracted… We get distracted instead of focusing on what’s important.”

In Wisconsin and Michigan, Obama discussed women’s reproductive rights.

Obama’s Midwest barnstorms at stake to save Democrats’ ‘blue wall’

“In Michigan, who will fight for your freedom? Is it a bunch of Republican politicians and judges who think they should decide when you start a family or how many kids you have, who you marry or who you love Or is it leaders like Gretchen Whitmer who believe that the freedom to make these personal decisions belongs to every American, not to politicians in Washington?

The Michigan governor is facing a re-election bid from Republican challenger Tudor Dixon.

Obama dominated Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania in 2008 and 2012, only for Donald Trump to capture those same states in 2016. In 2020, President Joe Biden clawed back the states but by the narrowest margin, winning Wisconsin , for example, by less than one percentage point. Today, Biden still grapples with a lack of favor, as evidenced by his absence from battlegrounds like Wisconsin.

Obama’s Midwest barnstorms at stake to save Democrats’ ‘blue wall’
Former President Barack Obama in front of the crowd at Renaissance High School in Detroit on Saturday following a campaign rally for Michigan Democrats.Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images

A collapse of this “blue wall” in 2022 has implications for a presidential race just two years away, if Republicans take power in key state offices in critical states, especially if election results are handed in. in question.

“Only two counties returned to Biden after Trump in 2016, Sauk and Door,” said Marquette Law School poll leader Charles Franklin. “Turnout in Milwaukee midterms often drops a lot from presidential years, so Democrats are especially concerned about maximizing turnout there, hence Obama’s visit.”

Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Ben Wikler told the Milwaukee high school crowd Saturday night to remember that four of the last six presidential elections have ended by less than a percentage point.

“The other two were Obama landslides,” Wikler told an exuberant crowd. “These elections are linked. The race for governor is tied. The race for Attorney General is tied. The race for the Senate is tied. Which means you can tip the scales. »

Barnes said watching Obama as a senator from neighboring Illinois deliver a rousing speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 was life-changing.

“Seeing Barack Obama on that stage inspired me and made me realize that maybe if I worked hard enough, I could have the power to make a difference,” Barnes said.

In remarks on Saturday, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, said that even if Obama is not on the ballot on Nov. 8, the issues and policies he fought for, like health care, are factored into the election issues that Wisconsin voters will eventually consider. answer.

“If the people of Wisconsin vote in this election,” Kaul said, “we win.”

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