Photo: Aurelien Morissard/IP3 via Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama made his official pitch to voters today ahead of the 2018 midterm elections: "You need to vote because our democracy depends on it," he said at a speech at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Why it matters: Democrats hope Obama is their secret weapon to really push Americans to turn out in November. And it could work — his post-presidential approval rating is 63%, per Gallup.

One big thing: Obama mentioned President Trump. "It did not start with Donald Trump," he said. "He is a symptom, not the cause" for what's going on in American politics.

  • Obama will be in California on Saturday and Ohio next Thursday as he hits the campaign trail.

Be smart: Obama's message could be most successful for Democratic voters looking to embrace activism in the final two months of the election, but it could also remind those Obama-Trump voters what they liked about politics before President Trump ran for office.

Go deeper

Updated 35 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 12,520,431 — Total deaths: 560,830 — Total recoveries — 6,900,718Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 3,184,722 — Total deaths: 134,830 — Total recoveries: 983,185 — Total tested: 38,856,341Map.
  3. Public health: The reality of the coronavirus bites.
  4. Trade: Trump says he's no longer considering phase-two trade deal with China because the pandemic damaged the two countries' relationship.
  5. 🎧 Podcast: Rural America has its own coronavirus problem.
2 hours ago - Health

We're losing the war on the coronavirus

Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

By any standard, no matter how you look at it, the U.S. is losing its war against the coronavirus.

Why it matters: The pandemic is not an abstraction, and it is not something that’s simmering in the background. It is an ongoing emergency ravaging nearly the entire country, with a loss of life equivalent to a Sept. 11 every three days — for four months and counting.

Trump commutes Roger Stone's sentence

Roger Stone arriving at his sentencing hearing on Feb. 20. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump on Friday evening commuted the sentence of his longtime associate Roger Stone, according to two senior administration officials. Stone in February was sentenced to 40 months in prison for crimes including obstruction, witness tampering and making false statements to Congress.

Why it matters: The controversial move brings an abrupt end to the possibility of Stone spending time behind bars. He had been scheduled to report to prison on July 14.