Former President Obama is returning to Philadelphia on Wednesday for his first in-person 2020 campaign event for Joe Biden. In 2016, the man known as one of the Democratic Party's strongest orators delivered Hillary Clinton's closing argument in the same place—at a rally for thousands the night before Election Day on Independence Mall. Now, with the pandemic upending campaigning, Obama will speak to a much smaller crowd at a drive-in rally, where supporters will listen to him over the radio inside their cars, per the AP. The format reflects the challenge Democrats face in getting out the vote in a year when they've eschewed big rallies in favor of small, socially distanced events, drawing a contrast with President Trump and the GOP on the virus. Still, Democrats say that Obama remains one of the party's greatest assets in the final stretch of the campaign.
"Especially in Philadelphia, he is the ultimate draw and still a great standard-bearer for Democrats," says former Philly Mayor Michael Nutter. Obama has been focusing much of his work on getting younger Americans to vote by appearing on video game streaming platform Twitch, pushing a voter registration message on Snapchat, and recording a video for the Shade Room, a Black-owned Instagram page with 21 million followers. Obama has also been a big money draw for the campaign—a grassroots virtual fundraiser he headlined with Biden in June brought in $7.6 million. Obama's visit to Philadelphia underscores the significance of Pennsylvania: If Trump loses the swing state, his path to winning reelection narrows significantly. "President Obama has ... the singular ability to credential how ... Biden would approach the job in the Oval Office," says former Obama press secretary Ben LaBolt.
(Read more Barack Obama