Screenshot: Biden campaign virtual fundraiser

Former President Barack Obama said at a virtual fundraiser for Joe Biden Tuesday night that “help is on the way” and urged supporters not to be complacent in thinking their work is close to being finished: "Whatever you’ve done so far is not enough."

Why it matters: Organizers said it's the Biden campaign's largest fundraiser yet, bringing in $7.6 million from over 175,000 people. It's expected to be the first of several joint efforts with Biden in the months leading up to the election.

What they're saying: Obama said Biden will have to deal with bigger challenges if he wins in November than the Obama-Biden administration faced coming in after the 2008 financial crisis — but he also described what he sees as a "great awakening," especially among younger voters demanding social and racial justice that has been overdue for centuries.

  • Obama said the current administration, enabled by Republicans in Congress and some in the media, "has gone at the very foundations of who we are and who we should be" as a nation. That includes undermining facts and science, politicizing the Justice Department and considering some Americans to be "more real" than others, Obama argued.
  • "We have this unique chance to translate a growing awareness of injustice in society into actual legislation and institutional change ... and those moments don't come too often," Obama said.
  • "Man, this is serious business," he said, adding that "whatever you’ve done so far is not enough. And I hold myself and Michelle and my kids to the same standard."
  • "I am here to say the help is on the way if we do the work because there’s nobody I trust more to be able to heal this country and get back on track than my dear friend Joe Biden." 

Obama expressed sympathy for Anthony Fauci, noting that the nation’s top infectious diseases expert often “has to testify and then see his advice flouted by the person who he’s working for." He also said campaigns have to be structured differently to adapt to the pandemic.

  • And he recalled how how as president he tried to pressure other foreign leaders to allow freedom of the press and freedom of assembly.
  • “Now they’re witnessing out of our White House a militarized response to peaceful demonstrators or a leader who basically threatens, consistently impugns the free press," Obama said.

Biden said if elected, he'll "protect and build on everything we achieved in the Obama administration," including expanding Obamacare with the public option, "which the president was hoping we could have gotten the first time."

Between the lines: The fundraiser and Obama's promise of sustained engagement are clear signals to the Trump campaign that Democrats are serious about garnering enough enthusiasm and money to be competitive in places they haven't been in past cycles.

  • Jen O’Malley Dillon, Biden campaign manager, said the campaign views Arizona, Georgia and Texas — states Trump won handily in 2016 — as in play for Democrats this cycle.
  • "This year, in 2020, we actually think we have a very expanded map in front of us," she said during her remarks at the virtual fundraiser.
  • "We can't be complacent or smug or sense that somehow it's so obvious that this president hasn't done a good job because, look, he won once," Obama said of President Trump.

Obama is expected to do several events with Biden throughout the campaign, not just fundraisers. But his presence also gives President Trump an opportunity to replay some of his greatest hits and gripes against Obama and attack everything Trump says the old administration did wrong — ultimately trying to marry Biden to that image for voters.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
Sep 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

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