What Barack Obama has been saying on the midterms campaign trail
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
Ten years ago, Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. The former Illinois senator ran on a campaign of hope, with his supporters chanting "Yes, we can". He became the first African-American to be elected as president, winning both the popular vote and Electoral Colleges by a significant margin against John McCain. In 2012, he was re-elected - albeit by a smaller margin in a contest against Mitt Romney.
The campaign of hope was replaced by a campaign of fear for his successor in the White House, Donald Trump. On the campaign trail, the former businessman played on immigration fears, promising to build a wall to stop Mexicans entering the country. He promised a Muslim travel ban, stopping nationals from Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. Against expectations, he won - victorious with the Electoral Colleges, but over two million votes behind Hillary Clinton in the popular vote.
Usually, when presidents leave the White House, they tend to retire from public life. But the stakes are too high for Obama and the Democrats, so the 44th president has returned to politics, campaigning for his party during the 2018 midterms. He said that these elections may be more important than the 2008 election in which he won the presidency.
Speaking at a rally in Illinois, the former president said: “Hope is still out there. We just have to stand up and speak for it. And in two days, Illinois, in two days, you get to vote in what might be the most important election of my lifetime, maybe more important than 2008.
"America is at a crossroads right now. There is a contest of ideas that is going on, about who we are and what kind of country we are going to be."
Obama added: “Health care for millions is on the ballot. A fair shake for working families is on the ballot. And most importantly, the character of our nation is on the ballot.
“When you vote, when you participate in the political process, you can be a check on bad behaviour.”
In Florida, Obama was introduced by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum as our "forever president". Obama is certainly more popular than Trump with a 66 per cent approval rating, compared to the current president's 41.9 per cent (Trump reached a peak of 45.5 per cent at the start of his presidency).
Obama has upped his appearances, appearing in Illinois, Indiana, Georgia, and Florida - until mid-October, he held just three campaign events in 2018. He still refuses to call out Trump by his name, but it is pretty obvious whom he is attacking. The former president is not holding back with his criticisms of the current administration, telling a crowd in Florida: "What we have not seen is politicians just blatantly, repeatedly, baldly, shamelessly lying—just making stuff up. That's what they're doing right now, all the time.
"When words don't mean anything, when truth doesn't matter, when people can just lie with abandon, democracy can't work."
During an appearance in Indiana, Obama said that Republicans have "racked up enough indictments to field a football team". He asked the crowd what the GOP have achieved in two years of total control in Washington, answering: "They promised they were going to take on corruption in Washington. Instead, they've racked up enough indictments to field a football team. Nobody in my administration got indicted. Which, by the way, is not that high a bar."
On the midterm campaign trail, he has been faced with hecklers, putting them down with quips. He admonished a heckler for swearing in Miami: “Sir, sir, don’t curse in front of kids, come on. Don’t do that in front of them, come on."
Laughing it off, he said, “You know what? This is what I look forward to, is having a few hecklers to get me back in the mood. You know, it’s like, I enjoy that. You always gotta have a few in order to know that you’re on the campaign trail."
Obama also joked: "Why is it that the folks that won the last election are so mad all the time? When I won the presidency, at least my side felt pretty good.”
The 2018 midterm elections are held today (Tuesday, November 6). All of the 435 House of Representatives seats will be up for grabs, while 33 of the 100 Senate seats will be contested.