Obama tells Democrats how to win midterms in first White House return in five years

The former president was on hand to commemorate the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act’s passage

Obama jokingly calls Biden 'vice president' on return to White House

Former president Barack Obama had a simple message for Democrats who worry about losing their majority in the 2022 midterm elections.

“We got a story to tell, just got to tell it,” he said in response to NBC News’ Peter Alexander.

The former president received a standing ovation as he returned to the White House for the first time since leaving the Oval Office in 2017 to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the passage of his signature health care law, the Affordable Care Act, which received the moniker Obamacare in the press.

Mr Obama has kept a mostly low profile but his return to the White House after not returning during Donald Trump’s presidency felt like a reunion from when Mr Obama occupied the White House in very similar political circumstances as President Joe Biden.

Mr Obama seemed to slide back into his familiar role easily.

“Thank you, Vice President Biden,” he said to laughs, a nod to how Mr Biden was his number two for eight years and his most forceful attack dog both on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail. “That was a joke.”

The former president rattled off a series of his accomplishments during his time in the White House such as passing the American Recovery Act, repealing a ban on gay and lesbian Americans in the US military and saving the auto industry.

“But nothing made me prouder than providing better health care and more protections to millions of people across this country,” he said.

Mr Obama’s return to commemorate the health care law that Mr Biden called at the time of its signing in 2010 a “big f***ing deal,” something Mr Obama alluded to in his remarks, also highlighted how Mr Biden finds himself in a parallel position to his predecessor.

“To get the bill passed, we had to make compromises,” he said. “We didn’t get everything we wanted. That wasn’t a reason not to do it. If you can get millions of people health coverage and better protection, it is to quote a famous American, a ‘pretty big deal.’”

Like Mr Biden, Mr Obama dealt with Republicans who rebuffed his attempts at negotiation on health care, which led to him having to negotiate with conservative Democrats in the Senate and Blue Dogs in the House.

Mr Biden has had to negotiate his signature Build Back Better initiative with moderate Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, as well as moderate House Democrats like Representatives Stephanie Murphy from Florida, who is retiring at the end of this year. Mr Biden has largely had to sidestep Republicans to try to pass his domestic agenda through reconciliation to avoid a GOP filibuster.

Indeed, before Mr Obama’s remarks, Vice President Kamala Harris – who at the time of Obamacare’s signing had yet to even a statewide race in California and was running for attorney general of the state – spoke about how the administration hoped to pass legislation to help Medicare negotiate drug prices. That legislation is part of Build Back Better and many Democrats in both chambers negotiated for hours with the White House before Mr Manchin effectively killed Build Back better in December.

Mr Biden also faces low approval ratings which imperil the Democratic majority, not unlike how Mr Obama’s approval ratings – which at the same time during his presidency were not as low as Mr Biden’s current ones – spelled bad news for Democrats.

Republicans largely ran on the unpopularity of Obamacare in the 2010 midterms, which led the GOP winning 63 seats in the House of Representatives, which Mr Obama famously called a “shellacking.” Mr Obama mentioned the political courage of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who lost the speakership in 2010 after many Democrats lost their races, and the late Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who died late last year.

“I intended to get healthcare passed even if it cost me re-election, which for a while looked like it might,” he said. “But for all of us, for Joe, for Harry, for Nancy Pelosi, for others, the ACA was an example of why you run for office in the first place.”

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