by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Former President Barack Obama is stepping back into the political spotlight before November’s midterm elections with a message to voters about the importance of protecting democracy.
But although Obama’s message conforms with President Joe Biden’s own renewed warnings, he risks casting a shadow over his onetime second-in-command just as the incumbent’s political fortunes seem to be improving.
Biden, Obama, and their aides collaborated on the 2020 campaign to amplify Democratic causes and are expected to do so again this cycle, with the 44th president headlining a Senate Democrats fundraiser in New York this Thursday. But appearances in which Obama, for instance, swished a three-pointer into a Michigan basketball net while on the trail or was mobbed by lawmakers after the White House’s Affordable Care Act 10th anniversary celebration in March underscore some of Biden’s political vulnerabilities, such as his age, lack of diversity, and unpopularity, though his poll numbers have stabilized.
Obama spokesman Eric Schultz downplayed the idea before his boss returns to the White House on Wednesday for he and former first lady Michelle Obama’s official portrait unveiling, a ceremony postponed during ex-President Donald Trump’s administration due to animosity between Trump and his predecessor.
“President Obama has frequently described the office of the presidency as a relay race,” the former White House deputy press secretary told the Washington Examiner. “And there’s nobody President Obama would rather see with the baton right now than Joe Biden.”
Northeastern University’s politics department chairman, Costas Panagopoulos, similarly dismissed the issue, though he did concede that “Obama is a star in the Democratic Party.”
“It’s foolish to relegate him to the political sidelines given his experience and considerable public speaking strengths,” Panagopoulos said of Obama. “If anything, Biden may shine more brightly by association.”