Barack Obama hits campaign trail in California and Ohio to help ‘build party’s bench’ in 2018 midterms

Democrats need to hold current places and take 23 Republican seats to get a majority in the US House

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Monday 15 October 2018 15:11 BST
Former US President Barack Obama is about to go back on the campaign trail to help Democrats in California and Ohio ahead of the 2018 midterm elections
Former US President Barack Obama is about to go back on the campaign trail to help Democrats in California and Ohio ahead of the 2018 midterm elections (REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski)

Former President Barack Obama is hitting the campaign trail in California and Ohio ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

His efforts will be focused on helping Democrats in Orange County, California, a Republican stronghold in the liberal state, as well as lending a hand in the Ohio governor race - all while competing against endorsements and tweets from Donald Trump.

Mr Obama is hoping to inspire voters “in local, down-ballot races to build the Democratic Party’s bench”, spokesperson Katie Hill told the New York Times.

The president will be heading to Cleveland to campaign for former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and state attorney general Richard Cordray, who hopes to defeat Republican incumbent John Kasich.

It was Mr Obama who had encouraged Mr Cordray to run in Ohio, where Republicans have held the majority in state government since 2010.

There are seven Democrats looking to challenge Republicans in Orange County, all in districts which Hillary Clinton won in the 2016 election.

Former US president Barack Obama pays tribute to John McCain

Thus far in 2018, Mr Obama has been limiting himself to select fundraising speeches and issuing one round of national endorsements.

However, Ms Hill said “this moment in our country is too perilous for Democratic voters to sit out” and it appears the same is true for one of the party’s most popular campaigners.

In order to gain the majority in the 435-member US House, Democrats must hold on to all their current seats as well as pick up 23 Republican seats.

The Senate, where only a third is up for reelection this year, is more of an uphill battle, according to many experts.

Democrats have to defend 10 seats in states Mr Trump won in 2016 while picking up two Republican-held seats.

Mr Obama had also largely steered clear of directly criticising Mr Trump since leaving office in January 2017.

The change in tone could be seen taking hold in the wake of Mr Trump’s decision to dismantle one of Mr Obama’s signature foreign policy measures: the Iran nuclear deal, which provided sanctions relief to Tehran in exchange for stopping development of its nuclear weapons programme.

It was then that Mr Obama wrote a lengthy, what some called scathing, Facebook post in May 2018 critiquing Mr Trump’s decision not to recertify and withdraw from the deal.

He recently gave a speech at the late Senator John McCain’s funeral which included thinly veiled criticism of his bombastic successor.

His schedule is still taking form, but in the next month the former president is also expected to give speeches and campaign in Illinois and Pennsylvania - two states he won in both his presidential elections.

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