President Barack Obama has reemerged after a long vacation to stump for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam, hoping that his first foray into campaigning after Hillary Clinton’s loss proves more successful.
In his speech, Obama claimed that Democratic candidate Ralph Northam – who is currently leading challenger Ed Gillespie (R) in most polls – should get the vote because “democracy is at stake.” He also lamented the “nasty” state of modern politics, reaching back to some of the language that propelled him to the national spotlight.
“America is a story of progress,” Obama told an audience of about 7,500 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. “Ralph Northam wants progress. He wants to take us forward, not backward. He wants to reach out for hope, not fear. We need you to take this seriously. Because our democracy is at stake. And it’s at stake right here in Virginia.”
The former president also accused Gillespie, a former Bush administration official and lobbyist, of “dividing people,” echoing a common criticism hurled by Democrats at President Donald Trump.
“I haven’t been commenting a lot on politics lately,” Obama said. “But here’s one thing I know: if you have to win a campaign by dividing people, you’re not going to be able to govern them. You won’t be able to unite them later if that’s how you start.”
The final gubernatorial debate saw Northam and Gillespie butt heads over sanctuary cities, with Northam accusing his opponent of “promoting fear mongering, hatred, and bigotry” and Gillespie countering that Northam has not made his stance on sanctuary cities clear.
“We’ve got folks who are deliberately trying to make folks angry, to demonize people who have different ideas, to get the base all riled up because it provides a short-term tactical advantage,” Obama said, perhaps referring to Gillespie or Trump. “So the question for you tonight for the next 19 days: do you want a politics of division and distraction, or do you believe in a better kind of politics?”