Barack Obama can afford to joke about his popularity. The crowd at the Philadelphia arena just started screaming when he mentioned his wife’s name. He knows how it is: First Michelle, then his daughters Malia and Natasha, then Sunny – “the dog” – then he comes. The spectators cheer again.
An hour and a half ago, Obama took the stage at the Liacouras Center with President Joe Biden. After three speakers, he is now the final act of the last major campaign event for the Democrats before the congressional elections on Tuesday. It’s almost six-thirty and the first people have already lined up at noon, but Obama has no trouble keeping everyone hanging on his every word. Many of the more than 7000 spectators came because of him.
Biden also jokes that evening, but only about his political opponents – better not about his own popularity, even if the Democrats are among themselves. For Obama, Philadelphia is the final stop on a tour of several states where Democrats are on the brink. Biden, on the other hand, has shown himself in the past few weeks where a democratic majority is likely. Few candidates wanted the incumbent president’s help; he is too unpopular among Americans. In polls, only 40 percent of respondents approve of his policies. The biggest problem: the bad economic situation.
It would have been easy to distribute the roles here in Philadelphia in advance: Obama, the popular one, 18 years younger than Biden, a gifted speaker and one who has nothing more to lose politically. Already in the morning he had stood with the Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman on a campaign stage in Pittsburgh. In contrast, Biden, the unloved, at 79 years of age a little stiff in appearance, with occasional lapses in his speeches and the overriding question of whether he will compete again in 2024 despite everything.
But the Democrats are more concerned than ever this evening with demonstrating their unity. The situation ahead of the midterm elections is serious. It is now accepted that the party will lose the House of Representatives; there remains the hope of a majority in the Senate. That could be decided here in Pennsylvania if Fetterman manages to win against Republican Mehmet Oz.
“The good news is that we have an excellent President in the White House right now,” Obama calls out to the audience, to applause. Biden has previously referred to him as a “historic president” and a “dear friend.” There is no question that Obama is the better speaker, that he has a shorter connection to the audience, probably because of his age. The former president says at one point that he is now revealing a little secret. When his wife Michelle is sometimes discouraged because of all the bad news, he tells her: “Honey, everything will be fine.” Sentences that are difficult to imagine from Biden’s mouth.
But when it comes to the core political message, the two don’t give each other that evening in Philadelphia. “I understand that if you’re wondering how to pay your bills, democracy isn’t paramount,” Obama says. But there is a reason why generations of Americans have died for the country’s democracy. They shouldn’t be taken for granted. Again and again he says: As absurd as some of the Republicans’ moves may be, the whole thing is no laughing matter.
Biden has also repeatedly warned of the danger to American democracy in recent weeks, but here in Philadelphia he is particularly angry, urging viewers to go to the polls. “Those people with the guns in front of the polling stations? Come on. Where the hell do they think they are?” There is also the “character on the ballot”.
No sign of the man who, in a speech last week, first erroneously referred to the Iraq war instead of the Ukraine war and then said he made the mistake because his son Beau had died in Iraq. Although Beau Biden served in Iraq, he died of a brain tumor and his father believes it was caused by the toxic fumes from American incinerator pits in Iraq. Biden keeps emphasizing that his health is up to a second candidacy – and if not, he would communicate it.
His Republican opponents exploit the president’s every lapse in the media. But when it comes to age, your future presidential candidate in 2024 is likely to be only a little younger than Biden. So far, Donald Trump has only hinted. In a report by the news portal “Axios”, however, close confidants said that he could announce his candidacy again on November 14th. However, that still depends on the outcome of the congressional elections. If Trump runs again, he will be 78 when his name is on the ballot. Biden would then be 81 years old.