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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

54 mins ago - World

Putin foe Navalny to be detained for 30 days after returning to Moscow

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Photo: Oleg Nikishin/Epsilon/Getty Images

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has been ordered to remain in pre-trial detention for 30 days, following his arrest upon returning to Russia on Sunday for the first time since a failed assassination attempt last year.

Why it matters: The detention of Navalny, an anti-corruption activist and the most prominent domestic critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has already set off a chorus of condemnations from leaders in Europe and the U.S.

Biden picks Warren allies to lead SEC, CFPB

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has selected FTC commissioner Rohit Chopra to be the next director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Obama-era Wall Street regulator Gary Gensler to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Why it matters: Both picks are progressive allies of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and viewed as likely to take aggressive steps to regulate big business.

The perils of organizing underground

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Researchers see one bright spot as far-right extremists turn to private and encrypted online platforms: Friction.

Between the lines: For fringe organizers, those platforms may provide more security than open social networks, but they make it harder to recruit new members.