- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Former President Barack Obama on Wednesday hit the campaign trail for the first time in person on behalf of Joseph R. Biden, traveling to the battleground state of Pennsylvania as part of the campaign’s final get-out-the-vote push ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

Mr. Obama traveled to Philadelphia, where he chatted with Black community leaders and activists about the importance of voting before accusing President Trump of blowing the coronavirus response and treating the presidency like a “reality show.”

“This is not a reality show, this is reality, and the rest of us have had to live with the consequences of him proving himself incompatible of taking the job seriously,” Mr. Obama said from atop a stage in a parking lot outside Lincoln Financial Field, home of Major League Baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies.

Mr. Obama said on Mr. Trump’s watch 220,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus, 100,000 small businesses have shuttered, millions of jobs have been lost, and the nation’s global image has been left “in tatters.”

Mr. Obama said the pandemic would have been a challenge for any president, but “this idea that somehow this White House has done anything but completely screw this up is just not true.”

“We cannot afford four more years of this Philadelphia,” Mr. Obama said. “The good news is you can choose change. Right now you can vote for my friend Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris and the next president and vice president of the United States of America!”

Mr. Obama said Mr. Biden is “a native son,” describing him as the “scrappy kid from Scranton” who treats everyone “with dignity and respect.”

“That empathy, that decency, that belief that everybody counts, that is who Joe is, that is who he will be, and I can tell you the presidency doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are and Joe has shown himself to be a friend of working people,” he said.

Mr. Trump’s chances of winning a second term and Mr. Biden’s presidential aspirations could ride on who comes out on top in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Trump rallied thousands of supporters earlier this week in Erie.

Philadelphia is a Democratic stronghold, and home to a large population of Black voters that Mr. Biden likely needs to counter Mr. Trump’s popularity in the more rural parts of the state.

Mr. Obama on Wednesday seized on a report in the New York Times this week that said Mr. Trump maintains a “secret Chinese bank account.”

“A secret Chinese bank account?” Mr. Obama said. “Listen, can you imagine if I had a secret Chinese bank account when I was running for reelection? You think Fox News would have been a little concerned about that. They would have called me ‘Beijing Barry.’”

Speaking with local leaders beforehand at the Hank Gathers Youth Access Center in North Philly, Mr. Obama talked about the challenges facing Black men and shared advice on how to get more of the nation’s youth to vote.

“The answer for young people when I talk to them is not that voting makes everything perfect, it is that it makes things better,” Mr. Obama, sporting a black face mask, said. “You are more likely to have representatives like the congressman or the senator who are going to look out for you, who understand who you are. Your voice through them will be heard in the corridors of power.”

Mr. Obama said, “That’s worth 15 minutes to go vote.”

Mr. Biden has a 9-point lead nationally and a 4-point edge over Mr. Trump in Pennsylvania, according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls.

The Trump camp has downplayed the polls.

“There are hidden Trump voters — make no mistake,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said this week on Fox News.

Mr. Trump overcame a similar polling deficit against Hillary Clinton four years ago in Pennsylvania to become the first Republican to carry the state since then-President Ronald Reagan in 1988.

The difference was 44,000 votes — less than a percent of almost 5.9 million votes cast.

Mrs. Clinton outperformed Mr. Obama in Philadelphia, but her showing there still was not enough to offset the gains Mr. Trump made with working-class voters in small towns and the more rural parts of the state.

Ahead of his visit, Mr. Obama on Tuesday released a video on behalf of Mr. Biden, urging young voters to stay engaged and not buy into the cynicism that says voting doesn’t matter.

“This is really a tipping point and that momentum only continues if we win this election,” Mr. Obama said. “In times as polarized as these, your vote doesn’t just matter, it matters more than ever before. To change the game on any of the issues we care about, Joe Biden needs your vote.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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