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With about 100 days until the presidential election, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is once again leaning on a familiar name to boost his appeal among groups of voters seeking a return to pre-pandemic comfort: President Barack Obama.
On Thursday, the pair will release a long-form, socially distanced but in-person, video conversation, called “44 + 46,” set to be distributed on their respective social media platforms. A preview of the video shows the two arriving at Barack Obama’s office in Washington, D.C., while wearing masks to discuss President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus crisis.
44 + 46
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) July 22, 2020
The preview displays Biden criticizing Trump for “his inability to get a sense of what people are going through” and to “relate in any way.”
“One of the things that I have always known about you, Joe, it’s the reason why I wanted you to be my Vice President and the reason why you were so effective: It all starts with being able to relate,” Obama responds to Biden.
While President Obama has actively fundraised and stumped for his former VP, this video marks the first time the pair have met face-to-face publicly during this election cycle.
The Biden campaign has long hinged on restoring the milder days of the Obama administration, when presidential controversies involved tan suits instead of mass allegations of sexual misconduct or suggestions that Americans inject disinfectant to prevent COVID-19. Even during the Democratic primary debates, before the threat of a deadly pandemic swept the country, Biden frequently referenced Obama and his connections to the former President.
Obama’s presence as a surrogate in what has become a mostly digital campaign is a key pillar of success for the 77-year-old candidate who has been uniquely able to coalesce former Democratic competitors—Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke, and more—to act as stand-ins for himself and present a united Democratic front in spite of differences in political leanings.
In 2016, about 13% of Trump supporters said they voted for Obama in 2012, and about 4.4 million Obama voters just stayed home. A disproportionate number of these voters live in swing states, making the Obama-Trump voter a pivotal group for Biden to win back.
“If you can sit down with a family, and see your own family and the struggles that you’ve gone through or your parents went through or your kids are going through, if you can connect those struggles to somebody else’s struggles, then you’re going to work hard for them. And that’s always what’s motivated you to get into public service,” Obama said about Biden in the preview video.
Obama still enjoys massive favorability in the United States: A YouGov survey ranks him as the second most popular Democrat just behind former President Jimmy Carter, with 56% of respondents saying they have a positive opinion of him.
During an election where Biden is polling ahead by nearly 10 points but lacks voter enthusiasm, there’s a fear that Democrats won’t show up at the polls this November. Utilizing the popularity of Obama, who inspired record turnout during his election, is one way the Biden campaign hopes to mitigate that threat.
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