Former president Barrack Obama speaks during a campaign rally (Gene J. Puskar/AP)
05 November 2022

‘Sulking is not an option’: Obama rallies Democrats ahead of US elections

05 November 2022

Barack Obama has warned Democrats that abortion rights, social security and even democracy itself are at risk if Republicans seize congressional majorities in the US midterms 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,” Mr 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 energise voters on the final weekend of campaigning before Election Day on Tuesday.

Mr Obama was accompanying Senate nominee John Fetterman, the lieutenant governor who represents his party’s best chance to flip a Republican-held seat. Later on 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 amid voters’ concerns about surging inflation, crime and the overall direction of the country. History suggests that Democrats, as the party in power, will suffer significant losses in the midterms.

Even before arriving in Pennsylvania, Mr Biden was dealing with a fresh political mess after upsetting some in his party for promoting plans to shut down fossil fuel plants in favour of green energy. While he made the comments in California the day before, the fossil fuel industry is a major employer in Pennsylvania.

Democratic Senator for West Virginia Joe Manchin, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the president owed coal workers across the country an apology.

“Being cavalier about the loss of coal jobs for men and women in West Virginia and across the country who literally put their lives on the line to help build and power this country is offensive and disgusting,” Mr Manchin said.

The White House said Mr Biden’s words were “twisted to suggest a meaning that was not intended; he regrets it if anyone hearing these remarks took offence” and that he was “commenting on a fact of economics and technology”.

Former president Donald Trump will finish the day courting voters in a working-class region in the south-western corner of the state 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 state. The Oz-Fetterman race could decide the Senate majority — and with it, Mr 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.

Polls show a close contest to replace retiring Republican Senator Pat Toomey.

Mr Shapiro, the state attorney general, leads in polls over Mr Mastriano, a state senator and retired Army colonel who some Republicans believe is too extreme to win a general election in a state Mr Biden narrowly carried two years ago.

Mr 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?” Mr 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.”

Mr Obama and Mr Fetterman hugged on stage after the speeches were over.

“Today, Dr Oz is going to be standing with Donald Trump,” Mr Fetterman quipped.

Saturday marked Mr Obama’s first time campaigning in Pennsylvania this year, though he has campaigned in recent days in Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada and Arizona.

As Mr Biden’s approval numbers sag, the current President has been a far less visible presence in battleground states and has been spending more time in Democratic-leaning states

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