Former President Barack Obama has by and large kept a low profile since leaving office, rising up only occasionally to take indirect shots at his successor, President Donald Trump.
But that is reportedly about to change — at least with respect to Obama’s low political profile. The former president is said to soon campaign and fundraise on behalf of Democrats for the midterm elections,
Still, it is expected that he will largely avoid directly confronting Trump on the campaign trail.
Obama headed to the campaign trail
According to USA Today, sources close to the former president say that he is about to ramp up his efforts on behalf of Democrats over the coming months as the midterm elections draw near, but will attempt to remain “above the fray” when it comes to Trump.
The suggestion that Obama is about to start campaigning and fundraising on behalf of Democrat candidates comes just days after he issued endorsements to dozens of candidates at the federal and state level in a number of states, part of an effort to rebuild the party’s bench and secure majorities ahead of congressional redistricting in 2020.
However, Obama is likely to avoid speaking out directly against Trump or injecting himself into close races in areas that favor Trump, as while his appearance will fire up the liberal base, it could also serve to energize conservatives against him as well.
“He doesn’t have to be aggressive. If he’s aggressive that would have the result of firing up Trump’s base,” explained Ed Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania and former surrogate of Obama.
It is hoped that Obama’s endorsements and campaign appearances — “as a broadly popular former president,” according to spokeswoman Katie Hill — will help increase turnout among the minority and special interest groups Democrats count on for support, particularly in suburban areas that are considered swing districts.
But Obama’s reentry into campaign politics is not without risk. According to Rendell, Obama’s expressed support for certain Democrat candidates could backfire on Democrats by reminding Trump’s supporters why they voted for him in the first place.
“To the extent that there are districts that are right of center, it certainly helps where [Obama] is involved,” Josh Holmes, former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, explained. “The vast majority of Americans are doing better today than over the eight years of his presidency.”
“The Democratic base is already pretty motivated and all this will do is get Republican voters more fired up. So we salute the idea,” Chris Pack, spokesman for the Senate Leadership Fund, added.
Considering the general state of disarray and lack of clear leadership on the part of the Democrat Party over the past two years, it isn’t that much of a surprise that Obama would enter the mix and attempt to guide his party to electoral victories.
But whether he can do that without firing up the Republican base — and while also avoiding getting in a direct fight with his successor — remains to be seen.