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Obama gives fiery speech for McAuliffe: 'Don't sit this one out'
RICHMOND, Va. - Former President Obama delivered a fiery address campaigning for Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe on Saturday, urging Democrats to flock to the polls and taking a number of swings at Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin.
"When you've got someone in your corner who has shown that they will work for you, who has a track record of accomplishments, then you have to go out there and work for them. Not because everything suddenly is going to be perfect but because it's going to be better," Obama told a crowd at Virginia Commonwealth University alongside McAuliffe.
"We ain't got time to be tired," he continued. "What is required is sustained effort."
"Go out there and fight and work because you're going to decide this election and the direction of Virginia and this country for generations to come," he said. "Don't sit this one out."
The former president also implored voters to vote for Democrats up and down the ballot after endorsing a slate of the party's House of Delegates candidates earlier in the day.
"And make sure you vote for Democrats up and down the ballot, including for state legislature, where a lot of important work gets done," he said, adding that he used to serve as a state legislator.
Around 2,000 people were in attendance for the rally, according to people familiar with the event's planning.
Notable Virginia Democrats including Sen. Tim Kaine, Gov. Ralph Northam, Attorney General Mark Herring, and lieutenant gubernatorial nominee Del. Hala Ayala were also in attendance.
Obama also used the address to take aim at Youngkin without mentioning him by name.
"As far as I can tell, the big message of Terry's opponent is that he's a regular guy because he wears fleece and he's accusing schools of brainwashing our kids," Obama said. "He's also said he wanted to audit the voting machines used in the last presidential election again. Really? Encouraging the lies and conspiracy theories that we've had to live through all this time? And yet we're supposed to believe he's going to stand up for our Democracy?"
Obama also appeared to take aim at a number of Youngkin's campaign ads, in which he is seen playing basketball, walking through a grocery store, and talking about his time working as a dishwasher.
"Listen, I'm glad the guy can play basketball," Obama, who is known for his love of the sport, said. "I'm less convinced that the co-CEO of one of the largest private equity firms in the world spends his time washing dishes and going grocery shopping. But who knows? Maybe."
Prior to the rally, the Republican National Committee released a statement saying McAuliffe "desperately stumps with another liberal celebrity."
"Republicans are on the ground talking to Virginians at their doors. No matter who Terry McAuliffe brings out, it won't change the fact that Virginians are tired of McAuliffe's recycled policies and broken promises," said RNC spokesperson Elizabeth Ray.
The race between McAuliffe and Youngkin is being viewed by both parties as a bellwether ahead of the 2022 midterms. Virginia has trended blue in recent years, with Democrats controlling the governor's mansion and both legislative bodies. Former President Trump lost the state in 2016 and 2020. However, Democrats have expressed concerns about the high Republican enthusiasm and the tightening polls.
Democrats say they hope Obama's campaign stop will help galvanize Virginia's Democratic base as polls show a wide enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats. A Monmouth University poll released earlier this week showed 49 percent of Republican voters saying they are more enthusiastic than usual to vote in the election compared to 26 percent of Democrats. The same poll also showed Youngkin and McAuliffe both at 46 percent support.
The party's leaders have brushed off concerns about the closeness in the polls, pointing to the 2017 Virginia gubernatorial election where Republican Ed Gillespie narrowly led now Northam.
"It's horse race time," said Jaime Harrison, chair of the Democratic National Committee. "There aren't a whole lot of races - it's Virginia and New Jersey. And so thats's where the media attention is going to be. So at the end of the day, it's going to be about turnout."
Other big-name Democrats are expected to campaign for McAuliffe ahead of Election Day, including former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams on Sunday in Charlottesville and President Biden on Tuesday in Arlington.
Youngkin was out campaigning on his "Win with Glenn" bus tour just blocks away in Richmond as Obama rallied with McAuliffe. Youngkin's campaign says he will not feature any big name surrogates and instead feature Virginians whose stories reflect the message of Youngkin's campaign.
More than 500,000 Virginia voters have voted early in this year's election. Election Day in the commonwealth is on Nov. 2.