It’s the battle of the exes.
Both Republicans and Democrats are turning to their popular past presidents for last-minute assistance on the campaign trail, bringing former President Barack Obama out of semi-retirement to counter the gravitational pull of former President Donald Trump, who has been active throughout the campaign season.
On Sunday, Mr. Trump rallied supporters in Florida, where Sen. Marco Rubio, a rival in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, is seeking a third term in the Senate. On Saturday, Mr. Trump was in Pennsylvania stumping for his hand-picked candidates, Mehmet Oz for Senate and state Sen. Doug Mastriano for governor.
Mr. Obama was also in Pennsylvania over the weekend, headlining rallies in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia for John Fetterman and Josh Shapiro, the Democratic candidates for Senate and governor, respectively.
Mr. Obama, the 44th president, and Mr. Trump, the 45th president, framed the first two years of President Biden’s time in office in starkly different terms, underscoring how much Tuesday’s elections have become a referendum on the 46th president.
Mr. Trump said at a rally Sunday in Miami that Mr. Biden and the “far-left lunatics” are destroying the country by supporting open borders, being soft on crime and indoctrinating schoolchildren.
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“Biden and the far-left lunatics are waging war on your jobs, your safety, your values and your freedom,” Mr. Trump said. “They are strangling Florida families. They are hitting Florida very hard with soaring prices … and crippling inflation.”
Mr. Obama said Mr. Biden is steering the nation out of a pandemic that has, along with the war in Ukraine, fueled inflation, putting pressure on the working class.
Despite those headwinds, Mr. Obama said Mr. Biden has watched over the creation of millions of jobs and a falling unemployment rate. He also credited the Democratic-led Congress with giving Mr. Biden legislation to limit how much the government pays for prescription drugs and to invest more money in infrastructure.
“If you help Democrats keep the House and get a few more seats in the Senate, you can guarantee he will make more progress on the issues you care about,” Mr. Obama said. “You’ve seen what he has accomplished with the barest of margins. If you vote, he can do even more, but it depends on you.”
Mr. Obama said abortion, Social Security and democracy itself are on the ballot.
“I understand that democracy might not seem like a top priority right now, especially when you’re worried about paying the bills,” Mr. Obama said in Philadelphia. “But when true democracy goes away, we’ve seen throughout history, we’ve seen around the world, when true democracy goes away, people get hurt. It has real consequences.”
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Former President Bill Clinton is also out campaigning, as is Mr. Biden. That means four of the past five presidents — all except George W. Bush — are out rallying voters in the campaign season’s last days.
Political forecasters predict Republicans will flip the House from Democrats’ control while control of the Senate — which is split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tiebreaking vote — remains in doubt.
Republicans believe they have momentum in key races, including in Pennsylvania, where Mr. Oz has been closing fast. The race is tied, with Mr. Oz up by 0.1 percentage point in the RealClear Politics average of polls.
The state has proved to be the ultimate battleground in recent years. Mr. Trump won the state in 2016, and Mr. Biden carried it in 2020.
Mr. Biden has a long history with the state. Born in Scranton, he often plays up his working-class roots and reminds voters that he was sometimes labeled Pennsylvania’s third senator when he represented Delaware in the Senate.
On Saturday, Mr. Biden played the opening act to his former boss, Mr. Obama. He said he needs reinforcements in Washington to pass an assault weapons ban, protect abortion rights and stop Republicans from gutting Social Security and Medicare.
“These guys will never cease to amaze me, man,” Mr. Biden said. “They’re literally coming after Social Security and Medicare.”
Mr. Biden campaigned earlier Saturday in Illinois on behalf of Reps. Lauren Underwood, Sean Casten and Bill Foster. On Sunday, he was campaigning with New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, who is facing a stiff challenge from Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin.
Mr. Biden called Mr. Zeldin an “election denier” for voting not to certify the 2020 presidential election.
“There are more than 300 Republican candidates for state, local and federal office who are election deniers who say that I did not win the election even though the hundreds of attempts to challenge and have all failed,” he said. “Kathy Hochul’s opponent is one of those those election deniers.”
Mr. Clinton also campaigned with Ms. Hochul on Saturday.
Mr. Obama, however, remains the hottest attraction for Democrats. Mr. Trump is trouncing other Republicans in terms of star power as he teases another run for president in 2024 and continues to cast doubt on the 2020 election.
“Everybody, I promise you in the very, very, very short period of time you are going to be so happy,” Mr. Trump said.