Obama urges Dems to watch GOP debate
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President Obama is asking Democrats to put aside their contempt for Republican presidential candidates and watch their first debate on Thursday. 
 
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“Tune in, listen carefully to what the Republican candidates for president say, and then hold them accountable for trying to undo all of the hard work we've done to move this country forward,” the president wrote in an email blasted out by the Democratic National Committee.
 
The message is one of the first steps taken by Obama to publicly campaign for Democrats in the 2016 presidential race. 
 
The email is a way for Democrats to collect data from voters to build a list of supporters. It contains a link where people can enter their personal information and pledge they will watch the debate.
 
Without mentioning anyone by name, Obama hits Republican candidates for trying to repeal his signature healthcare law, questioning the causes of climate change and opposing immigration reform and same-sex marriage, and says it's critical for Democrats to rebut those ideas. 
 
“While these Republicans may have bad ideas, they're still smart politicians,” he writes. “They know how to make policies that will take us in the wrong direction sound like they might actually be pretty good ideas.”
 
The first sanctioned GOP presidential debate will take place on Thursday night in Cleveland. The top 10 candidates in the Republican field will appear on the main stage, while the other seven will be invited to participate in a lower-profile event a few hours earlier. Both events will air on Fox News. 
 
The White House has been relatively reluctant to weigh in on the 2016 presidential race. Obama’s advisers have indicated he won’t make an endorsement in the primary and he has mostly stuck to attending private fundraisers for Democratic campaign committees. 
 
In recent weeks, however, Obama has lashed out at GOP contenders who oppose the nuclear deal with Iran. 
 
He called Mike Huckabee’s comments invoking the Holocaust part of a pattern of Republican rhetoric “that would be considered ridiculous if it weren’t so sad.”