Former President Obama on Thursday warned voters not to take any election for granted.
"I don't know if y'all noticed that, but you can't take any election for granted," Obama said, referencing the 2016 presidential election, when many Democrats thought their candidate was a lock to win.
Obama, speaking at his first political rally since he left the White House, addressed a crowd of New Jersey Democrats alongside New Jersey Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Phil MurphyPhil MurphyFire breaks out at NJ chemical plant: 'The worst that I've ever seen' Biden administration announces actions bolstering clean energy The Hill's Morning Report - Biden champions filibuster reform, but doesn't have the votes MORE, making an impassioned plea for Democrats to turn out to vote.
The speech comes at a familiar point for the party — with the Democratic candidate up with a comfortable lead at the polls down the stretch. But in a nod to the 2016 presidential election, Obama called on Democrats to run through the finish line and help elect Murphy in one of the highest-profile races of the 2017 calendar.
"I don't care what the polls say, I don't care what the pundits say. What matters is what's happening in communities," Obama said.
"You cannot complain if you didn't vote. If you give away your power and then somebody does things that are contrary to your interest, that's not that person's fault, it's your fault because you did not exercise the power that our Constitution gives us, that people fought for," he told the crowd.
Obama returned to the spotlight Thursday to stump for Murphy, his former ambassador to Germany, who currently leads in the polls against Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R).
The New Jersey race is one of the two gubernatorial races in 2017 and Obama also plans to stump for Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Thursday evening ahead of that state's November race.
The former president reminisced about his relationship with Murphy, telling a story about a time that the future candidate and his wife had dinner at the White House. In telling the story, Obama lauded Murphy as a candidate with the right intentions to serve his state well.
"It's not enough just to do well, it's not enough to be a highly successful business person. What's important is — what kind of citizen are you? Are you somebody who has led local charities? Are you somebody who's helped to start nonprofits? Are you somebody who's been a good husband, a good father, and somebody that recognizes that those of us who are blessed are required to give back?" Obama asked.
"I knew how much they loved this great state and how much they wanted to give back. That spirit of service is why eight years ago I asked Phil to serve as America's ambassador to Germany," he said.
After tough losses in special congressional elections across the country this year, Democrats are looking to the two gubernatorial races, where their candidates are favored, to help boost morale ahead of the pivotal 2018 midterms that they hope to use as a rebuke of President Trump. Both Murphy and Northam have sought to capture Democratic frustration with Trump by evoking him in their own local campaign.
While Obama did not mention Trump directly, he decried the direction of the political conversation in the country.
"What we can't have is the same old politics of division that we have seen so many times before that dates back centuries. Some of the politics we see, we thought we put that to bed. That's folks looking 50 years back; it's the 21st century, not the 19th century," he said.
"Phil understands that New Jersey wants to move forward, it doesn't want to move backwards. It wants to work together, not work apart," he continued.