Besides releasing a list of endorsements earlier this year and fronting the occasional fundraiser, Barack Obama has largely held his fire in advance of the midterms. While some have been frustrated by his reticence, his team has framed it as a winning tactic. “We want to be strategic about this for a number of different reasons,” Eric Schultz, one of the former president’s spokespeople, recently told the Daily Beast. “Because we have kept our powder dry we believe he has unique standing in this moment to have impact.” And while it’s still unclear whether Obama’s team has a larger strategy at play, there’s no doubt that on the weekend before election day—and the ten-year anniversary of his own election—the former president appears to have grown some teeth.
“Why is it that the folks that won the last election are so mad all the time?” he quipped to a crowd of 4,000 in Florida on Friday, in response to a number of hecklers who showed up at a Miami rally for gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, and other Democratic candidates down the ballot. “It’s an interesting question,” he continued, per The Washington Post. “I mean when I won the presidency, at least my side felt pretty good . . . it tells you something interesting, that even the folks who are in charge are still mad because they’re getting ginned up to be mad.” Never mentioning his successor by name, and instead using colloquialisms such as “the folks that won the last election,” he condemned Donald Trump’s aversion to the truth: “When words stop meaning something, when truth doesn’t matter, when people can just lie with abandon, democracy can’t work,” he said. “And that’s what’s happening at the highest levels. The only check on that behavior is you. The only check on that behavior is you and your vote. And on Tuesday you can vote for a politics that’s decent.”
His comments come just as Trump and his followers deliberately stoke alarm around a group of migrants seeking refuge in the United States, banking on race-based fear mongering as a closing argument. And Obama continued the line of attack into the weekend, telling an enthusiastic crowd in Georgia later that night that there has been “incessant, nonstop attempts to divide us with rhetoric that is designed to make us angry and make us fearful . . . to pit us against one another, to try to make us believe that things would be better if it just weren’t for those who don’t look like us, or don’t pray for us, or don’t love like us” and adding, pointedly, “I believe in fact-based campaigns.”