Former President Obama has recorded dozens of last-minute messages for Democratic candidates across the country, a below-the-radar push to get voters to the polls ahead of next week’s midterm elections.
Obama has recorded more than 50 messages — some robocalls, some videos that campaigns can spread through Facebook or text messages. A few have already been sent to voters, and others are likely to be sent in the final days before Tuesday’s elections.
“In the months leading up to the midterms — when he could have an impact — he has been making an aggressive case for Democratic candidates,” said Eric Schultz, a senior adviser to the former president.
The messages are meant to drive turnout, especially among core Democratic constituencies who often sit out midterm elections. At the same time, they can be sent at the last minute, to avoid inflaming Republican voters who do not like Obama.
“We are acutely aware that Democrats have a mixed record of success when President Obama is not on the ballot, and that he can galvanize opponents,” Schultz said in an email. “That’s why we focused this year on tailored [get-out-the-vote] strategies designed to move the needle for candidates.”
When Obama recorded a robocall for Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), the Jones campaign sent the call to African-American voters the day before the Dec. 12 special election so that Republicans did not have the time to make hay of Obama’s involvement in a deeply conservative state.
Some Democrats have made clear they do not want to campaign with Obama. He has not appeared alongside Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillEx-Rep. Akin dies at 74 Republicans may regret restricting reproductive rights Sunday shows preview: States deal with fallout of Ida; Texas abortion law takes effect MORE (D-Mo.), even though the two are close; McCaskill was one of the first Senate Democrats to endorse Obama during his 2008 presidential bid against then-Sen. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSuper PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump I voted for Trump in 2020 — he proved to be the ultimate RINO in 2021 Neera Tanden tapped as White House staff secretary MORE (D-N.Y.).
But Obama held a fundraiser for McCaskill in California in May. He has also appeared at fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and for Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseySenate Democrats call for diversity among new Federal Reserve Bank presidents Manchin, Sanders to seek deal on Biden agenda Democrats struggle to gain steam on Biden spending plan MORE (D-Pa.).
Obama has been more active in this year’s midterm elections than some previous ex-presidents. Since Labor Day, Obama has held rallies for candidates in California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Wisconsin and Michigan. On Friday, he will hold a rally with Democratic candidates in Florida and Georgia, and he has stops planned on Sunday in Indiana and Illinois.
Two videos Obama recorded on platforms geared toward younger voters — NowThis and ATTN — have generated almost 50 million views, Obama’s office said. About 700,000 of those viewers clicked through to Vote.org, a nonprofit website that gives information about voter registration and early voting.
Unlike some previous presidents, Obama has been much more willing to criticize his successor, both implicitly and explicitly. In a speech at the University of Illinois last month, Obama said President TrumpDonald TrumpSix big off-year elections you might be missing Twitter suspends GOP Rep. Banks for misgendering trans health official Meghan McCain to Trump: 'Thanks for the publicity' MORE was “capitalizing on resentments.”
Trump himself has hit the campaign trail hard, stumping several times a day for Republican candidates across the country. Trump has held 21 rallies since Labor Day, with another nine scheduled before Tuesday’s election.
Former President George W. Bush has also hit the campaign trail for some of his fellow Republicans, though in a much quieter manner than Obama. Bush headlined fundraisers for Republican candidates in Florida, Texas and North Dakota in September, and for Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyKelly raises million in third quarter Ruben Gallego is left's favorite to take on Sinema Texas not hiring private contractor for election audit MORE (R-Ariz.) in October.
Former Presidents Clinton and George H.W. Bush have stayed off the campaign trail this year. Former President Carter campaigned last month with Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor in Georgia, the job that launched Carter to the White House in 1976.