Obama to the rescue? Georgia Democrats pin hopes on 2020 mojo

By: - October 28, 2022 11:46 pm

Former President Barack Obama raises hands with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and Sen. Raphael Warnock at a campaign event for Georgia Democrats on Oct. 28 in College Park. Obama is in Georgia in support of Democratic candidates, encouraging voters to turn out. Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama stopped in Georgia Friday to fire up Democrats in a state poised to once again play a role in deciding the balance of power in Washington.

The popular national Democratic figure packed the Gateway International Convention Center in College Park as he campaigned for U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, Stacey Abrams and down-ballot Democrats, drawing a long line hours before the doors opened.

“There may be a lot of issues at stake in this election but the basic question – a fundamental question that you should be asking yourself right now – is who will fight for you?” Obama said.

Obama urged supporters not to let worries about the economy, democracy and other issues drive them to become disengaged, an acknowledgement of the headwinds Democrats face nationally.

Former President Barack Obama drew a large crowd to the Gateway International Convention Center in College Park during a campaign stop for Georgia Democrats. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder

“If you’re scared, don’t put your head under the covers. If you’re anxious, don’t put your head in the sand. If you’re frustrated right now, don’t complain. Don’t tune out,” he said. “I need you to get off your couch and vote. Put down your phone and give TikTok a rest and vote.”

Obama also took a swipe at Republican senatorial candidate Herschel Walker even while praising the football legend’s athletic prowess on the gridiron.

“Who will fight to keep you and your family safe – the Republican politicians who want to flood our streets with more guns, who actually voted against more resources for our police departments? Is it somebody who carries around a phony badge and says he’s law enforcement, like he’s a kid playing cops and robbers?” Obama said.

Walker’s honorary police badge – which he now famously flashed during a recent debate – has become campaign fodder for Democrats. “We all saw it with our own eyes: He wears his lies quite literally as a badge of honor,” Warnock said on stage Friday.

Walker, meanwhile, mocked Warnock Friday over comments made by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who was caught on a hot mic saying Warnock’s campaign was going “downhill” in Georgia.

“Even Chuck Schumer had to tell the president that Warnock is gonna lose this race,” Walker said.

Obama’s visit to Atlanta kicked off the start of a five-state swing ahead of the Nov. 8 midterms. The former president is hitting hotly contested swing states, heading next to Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

His visit comes as voter turnout in the first two weeks of early voting in Georgia has soared over the 2018 midterm level. Next week is the last opportunity to vote early.

Jessie Stallings, who came to see Obama speak with her nephew, says Democrats haven’t done enough to promote accomplishments like the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder

Warnock, who is seeking a full six-year term in one of the country’s most competitive Senate races, is locked in a tight race with Walker, and Abrams has been trailing in the polls in her rematch with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. Both Warnock and Abrams were showered with chants of “Warnock” and “Stacey.”

“I could listen to this all night, but we have only got 10 days, y’all,” Abrams said to the crowd.

But Obama wasn’t just focused on the top of the ballot. He also plugged state Rep. Bee Nguyen more than once. She is running for Secretary of State. He also namechecked southwest Georgia Congressman Sanford Bishop, who is fighting off a Republican challenger in what is seen as the state’s only competitive House race.

All Democratic statewide candidates took the stage with Obama, including Democrats running for down-ballot seats like agriculture commissioner and state school superintendent.

Jessie Stallings said Obama’s visit will certainly help rev up left-leaning voters, but she says Democrats aren’t lacking enthusiasm. Still, she’s seen the unfavorable polling, but is staying optimistic. The Conyers resident waited in line hours with her nephew.

One frustration she has: She doesn’t think national Democrats have done enough to tout their accomplishments, such as the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the insulin price cap. The wins should be blasted on a billboard on Interstate 285, she says.

“If we lose, I’m going to get up and beat them,” she said. “I’m going to be very positive, but if we lose, everything that they’re trying to achieve for the next two years is going to sit and sit.”

Joseph Amponsah, who lives in Kennesaw, says he believes Obama’s visit was a needed boost for Georgia Democrats. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder

Joseph Amponsah, who broke out his Obama jersey for the visit, said he believed Democrats needed the boost from Obama.

“There have been some misconceptions about Democrats,” the Kennesaw resident said. “So when Obama and big Democrats come down and explain what is going on, most people will believe it and go out to vote and see how our votes impact changes in Georgia and the whole nation.”

It’s not Obama’s first time coming to Georgia to help rally voters to the polls ahead of a high-stakes election. Obama visited on the eve of the 2020 presidential election when his former vice president Joe Biden and Warnock were on the ballot. Biden, for his part, has steered clear of Georgia this campaign season.

Obama also drew a crowd for Abrams and other Georgia Democrats at Morehouse College just before the 2018 election, with Abrams narrowly losing her first bid for the governor’s office by about 55,000 votes.


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Jill Nolin
Jill Nolin

Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing stories in the halls of Georgia’s Gold Dome, earning recognition for her work showing the impact of rising opioid addiction on the state’s rural communities. She is a graduate of Troy University.