Former President Barack Obama headlined a virtual fundraiser Tuesday for presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden, praising his former right-hand man as a healer-in-chief and saying he takes inspiration from a “Great Awakening” that has risen on President Trump’s watch to challenge political and social norms.
The fundraiser marked Mr. Obama’s first campaign appearance on behalf of Mr. Biden since he endorsed his former vice president’s bid in mid-April.
Without mentioning him by name, Mr. Obama assailed Mr. Trump, saying the White House — with an assist from congressional Republicans and the media — “has gone at the very foundations of who we are and who we should be.”
Mr. Obama said Mr. Biden, if elected, would be inheriting more challenges than when he took office in 2009 because of the way the Trump administration has rejected facts and science, suggested “a deadly disease is fake news,” promoted division, and considered “some people in this country more real as Americans than others.”
“That we haven’t seen out of the White House in a very long time,” he said.
“The good news, what makes me optimistic is, the fact that there is a Great Awakening going on around the country, particularly among younger people who are saying not only are they fed up with the shambolic, disorganized mean-spirited approach to governance that we’ve seen over the last couple of years but more than that are eager to take on some of the core challenges that have been facing this country for centuries,” Mr. Obama said.
Mr. Obama said the moment calls for a sense of urgency from voters.
“Whatever you have done so far is not enough,” he said.
Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon kicked off the fundraiser, saying the campaign had received donations from 175,000 supporters and raked in $7.6 mullion, marking its largest single fundraising event of the election cycle.
The financial haul serves as a reminder of Mr. Obama’s star power and offers a preview of the roles that he, and his wife, Michelle, are expected to play as high-powered campaign surrogates over the coming months.
“I think it is a really important validation for Joe Biden from basically the most credible messenger in American politics,” said Joe Zepecki, a Wisconsin-based Democratic strategist. “Obama remains overwhelmingly popular across all segments of the electorate.
“What we are seeing in Wisconsin is voters do want more information about Joe Biden,” he said about the battleground state. “Their minds are made up about Donald Trump, but they do want to hear about Joe Biden. Barack Obama can talk about Joe Biden in a way that nobody else can.”
The Trump campaign said Mr. Obama was not thrilled with Mr. Biden’s decision to run for president and for good reason.
“We know that Sleepy Joe isn’t fit to be YOUR president,” Mr. Trump said in a fundraising email. “I know it. You know it. And even Cheatin’ Obama knows it — that’s why he waited until Joe was the last man standing to formally endorse him.”
Trump campaign spokesman Ken Farnaso said Mr. Trump helped steer the nation in a more prosperous direction since taking the reins from Mr. Obama.
“In contrast, the Obama/Biden dismal track record of record-slow economic recovery and high taxes devastated our economy, and come November the American people will not put our country in the hands of that same failed leadership,” he said.
Mr. Obama stayed out of the Democratic presidential primary race until it became clear that Mr. Biden, who often touted his ties to the president, was poised to win.
It was around this time four years ago that Mr. Obama appeared for the first time on the campaign trail with Hillary Clinton, who at the time was engulfed in controversy over her use of a private email server.
This go-round, Mr. Obama returns to the political fray amid civil and racial unrest over George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
It has renewed questions over why Mr. Obama, the nation’s first Black president, and Mr. Biden didn’t do more to address the complaints of bad policing in minority communities.
Defending their legacy Tuesday, Mr. Obama said, “There’s nobody I trust more to be able to heal this country and get back on track than my dear friend Joe Biden.
“We have this unique chance to translate a growing awareness of injustice in society into actual legislation and institutional change … and those moments don’t come too often,” he said.
The fundraiser coincided with a Harvard CAPS/Harris poll that found Mr. Biden has doubled his lead over Mr. Trump from last month — opening up a 56% to 44% advantage among likely voters.
Mr. Trump, meanwhile, has received low marks from voters over his handling of the coronavirus, the economic collapse, and response to the protests following Floyd’s death.
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