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Obama, Biden Join Up in Bid to Rescue Vulnerable Fetterman

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Former President Barack Obama teamed up with President Joe Biden to warn of the consequences of Republican gains in midterm elections three days from now that are shaping up as potentially grim for Democrats.

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(Bloomberg) — Former President Barack Obama teamed up with President Joe Biden to warn of the consequences of Republican gains in midterm elections three days from now that are shaping up as potentially grim for Democrats.

Obama, in a speech to a pumped-up crowd in Philadelphia aimed at boosting Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman, accused Republicans of resorting to politics of fear. 

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“They want to scare the living daylights out of everybody,” Obama said. “And most of the time, those fears have a very slender relationship to reality.”

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Biden drew on his deep ties to his birth state of Pennsylvania to underpin sharp criticism of Fetterman’s Republican opponent, celebrity physician Mehmet Oz.

“I know Pennsylvania well, and John Fetterman is Pennsylvania,” Biden said. 

“And Oz in Pennsylvania? Look, I lived in Pennsylvania longer than Oz has lived in Pennsylvania, and I moved away when I was 10 years old,” he added. 

With Democrats’ prospects for holding on to their congressional majorities fading, Obama and Biden made their first joint campaign appearance since 2020. 

Oz trailed Fetterman by double digits as recently as September, but polls now have him running neck-and-neck with the Democrat, who suffered a stroke in May. 

Obama and Biden were all smiles as they entered Saturday’s event together, briefly locking arms before Biden spoke. 

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The rally was livelier than many of the other midterm campaign events staged by Biden, who has largely eschewed the format. 

“This crowd’s so loud I think they could hear us in Latrobe,” Biden said, referring to the southwest Pennsylvania town where former President Donald Trump is holding a rally Saturday for Oz. “They’re going to hear us. They’re going to hear us on Tuesday.”

Trump arrived to his rally in his refurbished aircraft emblazoned with “Trump,” which he used as the backdrop for his speech and said the choice in Tuesday’s election is to “end this madness” under Democratic leadership or saving the American dream by voting “in a giant red wave.”

The Democrats’ rally was held in a sports arena on the campus of Temple University, where modern pop music blared over the loudspeakers to warm up the crowd. Biden appeared to feed off the energy. There were 7,500 people in the audience, according to the White House.

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Biden ceded the role of closer to Obama — still his party’s most electric public speaker — who spoke after the president, Fetterman and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Josh Shapiro.

Obama shushed the crowd several times when they started booing at the mention of GOP candidates, telling them at one point, “They can’t hear you boo, but they’ll hear your vote.”

Obama pleaded with attendees to encourage their friends and family to vote, warning that losing the elections could spell doom for Democrats’ agenda. He pointed to the losses his party suffered in 2010, which he labeled a “shellacking” at the time, and in 2014.

“When I was president, I got my butt whupped in midterm elections,” Obama said. “I’m not big on looking backwards, but sometimes I can’t help imagine what it would have been like if enough people had turned out to vote in those elections.”

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“A president can’t do stuff alone. That’s not how our system is set up,” he said. “So what happens in the House, what happens in the Senate is vitally critical.”

Obama accused Republicans of “doing everything they can to prevent you from voting.”

“This is one of the only major parties worldwide that actively tries to discourage citizens from voting,” he said.  

Biden called the Nov. 8 vote “one of the most important elections in our lifetime,” adding that the outcome “is going to shape our country for decades to come. And the power to shape that outcome is in your hands.”

Biden’s appearance alongside Fetterman comes as the president was admonished Saturday by West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin for comments the president made a day earlier in California about shutting down coal plants. 

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Neighboring West Virginia is the no. 2 US coal-producing state. Pennsylvania is the third-largest. 

Biden didn’t address the spat with Manchin in his remarks, but White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement Saturday that the comments had “been twisted to suggest a meaning that was not intended.”

Read more: White House Defends Biden’s End-of-Coal Comments Manchin Derided

Stubbornly high inflation has been a drag on Biden’s approval ratings and limited his ability to stump for candidates in competitive races. Obama, who has largely shied away from politics since leaving office, has by contrast emerged as a powerful draw for Democratic candidates in key races.

Obama has stumped on behalf of incumbent Democratic senators Raphael Warnock in Georgia and Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada, two states Biden has steered clear of. Keeping those seats is critical to Democrats’ bid to retain control of the Senate, which is now split 50-50. 

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According to YouGov, Obama is currently the most popular Democrat, ranking above Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders and former President Bill Clinton. 

Read more: Unpopular Biden Shuns Obama-Trump Midterm Travel Strategy

Republicans are favored to win a House majority, while the battle for the Senate is a dead heat, according to a FiveThirtyEight analysis. 

Senate control could turn on the outcome of the Pennsylvania Senate contest, once viewed as a strong pickup opportunity for Democrats following Republican Senator Pat Toomey’s retirement. 

Read more: Three Presidents, One Senate Race: All Eyes on Pennsylvania 

Oz has raised questions about Fetterman’s health and fitness to serve after his opponent’s stroke. A rocky debate performance last month further dimmed Fetterman’s chances and enhanced national-level efforts to help him win. 

Fetterman joked about Obama’s rhetorical skills and shot back at Oz’s attacks in his remarks Saturday. 

“So, hey, did somebody ever hear that I had a stroke. Dr. Oz never lets me forget that,” he said, adding, “Let me tell you, anyone in recovery of having a stroke, the worst guy you have to go before, Barack Obama coming up has got to be the worst. The GOAT.”

—With assistance from Mark Niquette.

(Adds Trump comment in 12th paragraph)

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