‘We can’t afford to be tired’: Obama hits campaign trail to boost Terry McAuliffe in Virginia governor’s race

Obama McAuliffe
Former President Barack Obama waves to the crowd alongside former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe during a campaign rally on the main campus of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond on October 23, 2021. AP Photo/Steve Helber
  • Former President Obama on Saturday campaigned for Terry McAuliffe at a Virginia gubernatorial rally.
  • While speaking in Richmond, Obama laid out the consequences of the competitive race in stark terms.
  • “We’re at a turning point right now both here and in America and around the world,” he said.

Former President Barack Obama on Saturday rallied Virginians to support former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe in next month’s gubernatorial election, describing the highly competitive race as a critical referendum on the future of the state.

Obama appeared with McAuliffe at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, telling the crowd of roughly 2,000 people that the upcoming election has larger implications than they might realize.

“We’re at a turning point right now both here and in America and around the world,” the former president said. “There’s a mood out there. We see it. There’s a politics of meanness and division and conflict … of tribalism and cynicism. That’s one path.”

“But the good news is there’s another path, where we pull together … and that’s the choice we face,” he added.

Democrats – who have won every statewide election in Virginia since 2012, which included Obama’s successful reelection campaign – are hoping to send McAuliffe back to the Executive Mansion and retain the majority in the state House of Delegates that they secured in the 2019 elections.

McAuliffe, who served as governor from 2014 to 2018 after cultivating a national figure as a Democratic Party power broker – including a stint as chairman of the Democratic National Committee – will face Republican and former private equity executive Glenn Youngkin.

Obama repeatedly blasted Youngkin – who is locked in a close race with McAuliffe less than two weeks before the general election – calling him out for his support of former President Donald Trump, who remains an unpopular figure in Virginia.

The former president sought to tie Youngkin to the more radical elements of the Republican Party, especially in the wake of conservative activists pledging allegiance to a US flag that was reportedly “carried” at the Jan. 6 Capitol riot at a GOP rally earlier this month.

Youngkin did not attend the event and later said it was “weird and wrong” for activists to partake in such a ritual, but Democrats pounced, especially as the Republican continues to call for an audit of voting machines in the Commonwealth and pledged to assemble an “election integrity task force” if elected, which Democrats contend only feeds into Trump’s debunked theories that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” from him.

Republicans, who overwhelmingly approve of Trump, have largely embraced the former president’s viewpoint that Biden did not legitimately win the election.

“What are you willing to stand up for? When are you willing to say no to your own supporters? What are you willing to say? There are some things that are more important than getting elected,” Obama said. “And maybe American democracy is one of those things.”

The Democrat went on to say that he understood the unrest among the electorate – especially as the country continues to fight the coronavirus – but issued a clear warning for Virginia voters.

“I know a lot of people are tired of politics right now,” the former president said. “We don’t have time to be tired. What is required is sustained effort. … We can’t afford to be tired.”

“Our democracy is what makes America great. It’s what makes us the shining city on the hill, this extraordinary experiment in self-government. Protecting and preserving that shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It didn’t used to be,” he added.

While Virginia backed Biden over Trump by a 54%-44% margin last November, the president’s approval rating has slumped in the state, and McAuliffe has sought to push Democrats to craft a legislative deal to get their stalled multitrillion-dollar reconciliation bill back on track for passage.