Even former Vice President Joe Biden personally evoked the name of President Obama early and often during the Democratic debates of last year trying to hitch his wagon to his boss’s coattails. Remember, Biden would remind voters, I was part of the administration of the first black president, and Hope and Change was my motto, too.
Today, with Biden stuck in Covid-19 quarantine with the rest of the country, making videos and doing interviews from his deck with rowdy geese in the background, it seems that Democrats are calling on President Obama to come in and right the course of the ship.
From the recent graduation commencement speech, delivered online by President Obama, to the more frequent comments and high-profile appearances and statements on issues of the day, the former president is clearly becoming more involved in the 2020 campaign.
In terms of polling, Obama remains more popular than Trump to a much greater degree than Biden, according to The Hill:
Former President Barack Obama would beat current President Donald Trump in a head-to-head matchup if an election was held today, according to a new poll released Wednesday.
The Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey obtained by Politico showed that 54 percent of respondents would vote for Obama and 43 percent would vote for Trump if the candidates faced each other now.
Only 3 percent of respondents were unsure.
Eric Schmeltzer, a progressive public relations consultant, paid $4,500 out of his own pocket to commission the poll, according to Politico’s Playbook.
Whether the poll was meant to embarrass Trump, embarrass Biden, or purely for reasons of curiosity, it’s basically void since Obama is term-limited and cannot run for the presidency again.
What does this recent fascination with President Obama mean in terms of the 2020 Democratic nomination? Biden, riding on Obama’s coattails of blazing the trail of the first African-American president, has reminded voters often of his best friend, Barack. However, it does seem that Biden has had difficulty in truly attaching himself to the Obama legacy, which at times saw attacks from progressives during the debates in 2019 over issues like increased deportations.
This new poll showing Obama winning a head-to-head contest isn’t the only recent polling to include the last president’s name. In early April, polling found that voters felt Obama would handle the Coronavirus outbreak better than Trump, but Trump would handle it better than Biden:
When asked who would be a better leader during the outbreak, 52 percent of voters said Obama would be better during the crisis, compared with 38 percent who said Trump would be the stronger of the two leaders. Ten percent did not have an opinion.
By an 8-point margin, more voters picked Trump (44 percent) as a better leader during the crisis than Biden (36 percent), though voters were split evenly in the survey when asked whom they would trust to handle the issue.
There is something to be said for Obama’s calm, cool, collected ability to deliver a message on camera in a sober way. He rarely trips over his words or mangles pre-arranged phrasing the way Biden does on a near-daily basis. During a crisis, such as the Covid-19 outbreak, it’s not too surprising voters would feel more comfortable with Obama at the helm than Biden.
Nonetheless, Biden is the candidate Democrats have in 2020, barring unforeseen circumstances or a contested convention. The era of Obama is over, but if recent indications mean anything, we could be seeing a lot of the former president on the campaign trail vouching for his vice president.
President Trump’s campaign has noticed Obama’s newly growing presence on the 2020 field of play and has started to respond, carefully:
A war of words between President Donald Trump and his immediate predecessor is escalating after Barack Obama tore into U.S. leadership with veiled jabs at the administration.
Trump’s decision to lean in to the battle has elevated Obama’s presence in the national conversation as his former vice president, Joe Biden, claims the Democratic nomination for this fall’s presidential contest. In doing so, Trump is pitting himself against a man whose popularity exceeds his own.
Trump’s attacks frame the 2020 election as a proxy war between himself and Obama — a contrast that Democrats welcome as the former president, who has largely stayed out of the political fray since leaving office, expects to campaign for Biden.
“It’s hard to overstate how big a mistake it is: Obama is more popular than Trump nationally, that margin is even larger among the persuadable universe, and Trump won in 2016 because 4 million people who voted for Obama in 2012 stayed home,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a former top adviser to Obama. “Every moment that Trump spends obsessing about Obama is one he isn’t spending defeating Biden.”
It may be a mistake, but a mistake Democrats would secretly welcome to take some heat off Joe Biden’s shortcomings. Biden knows he needs Obama’s coalition to come back together and avoid mistakes made by Hillary Clinton, and he needs Obama to make it happen. During the 2016 race, Obama was largely quiet, staying on the sidelines while the Clinton machine went to work and ultimately lost.
It’s all-but-certain Trump will continue hammering Obama as hard as he can. When advisors or the media tell Trump he can’t do something, that’s basically a green light to escalate it, in the President’s mind.
As more and more revelations continue to surface about President Obama’s handling of the Russia investigation, the war of words will only intensify as President Trump finds more ways to poke his predecessor:
An official portrait unveiling for former President Barack Obama at the White House isn’t expected to occur anytime soon as his successor, President Donald Trump, accuses him of unsubstantiated and unspecified crimes.
NBC News first reported on the apparent end of a long tradition of first-term presidents hosting their immediate predecessor at the White House to unveil an official portrait. People familiar with the matter said such an event wasn’t currently on the calendar — and may not occur at all while Trump remains in office.
In short, the Obama/Trump campaign is just getting started, and Biden can grab popcorn and watch it unfold.