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

The national security risks hiding in Trump's debts

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The blockbuster New York Times report on President Trump’s taxes reveals that the president is $421 million in debt, with more than $300 million coming due during Trump’s potential second term — and the identities of the president’s creditors remain unknown.

Why it matters: If some, or all, of this debt is held by foreign actors, it raises serious national security implications.

27 mins ago - World

House report: U.S. intelligence agencies have failed to adapt to China threat

Xi Jinping and other Chinese politicians and delegates listen to the national anthem duirng the closing of the 19th Communist Party Congress in 2017. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

The House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday released a report finding that the U.S. intelligence community has failed to adapt to the growing threat from China, arguing that it will struggle to compete on the global stage for decades to come if it does not implement major changes.

The big picture: The 200-page report, based on thousands of analytic assessments and hundreds of hours of interviews with intelligence officers, determined that the intelligence community's focus on counterterrorism after 9/11 allowed China "to transform itself into a nation potentially capable of supplanting the United States as the leading power in the world."

Updated 30 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Tim Scott says Trump "misspoke" when he told Proud Boys to "stand by"

Photo: Bonnie Cash/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told reporters on Wednesday that he believes President Trump "misspoke" when he told the far-right "Proud Boys" group to "stand back and stand by" in response to a question about condemning white supremacy at the first presidential debate.

Catch up quick: Moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump on Tuesday, "Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down?" Trump asked who specifically he should condemn, and then responded, "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left."