ORLANDO, Fla. — Former President Barack Obama returned to his place of comfort today in Orlando — the stump — from where he praised Joe Biden as a “man of principle and character” and likened President Donald Trump to a character who exists only in headlines and in the national imagination.
What You Need To Know
- Former president speaks at Orlando rally for Democratic presidential candidate Biden
- Obama slammed Trump as leader who whines, tweets, helps "only himself and his friends"
- Obama to Orlando: "Believe in Joe's ability to lead this country out of these dark times"
“We’ve gotten so numb to what is bizarre behavior,” Obama said midday at a so-called drive-in rally on behalf of his former vice president. “We have a president right now who lies multiple times a day … Even #FloridaMan wouldn’t be doing some of this stuff.”
Obama’s appearance came as Trump’s Florida campaign apparently has found a new gear. Opinion polls show the president having closed Biden’s lead in the Sunshine State, and at least one recent poll shows Trump in the lead.
The former president’s visit followed a flurry of recent appearances from both campaigns to the crucial I-4 corridor. Trump has made three Central Florida appearances in two weeks, including Friday in The Villages retirement community.
In those appearances, Trump maintained character as he ridiculed political rivals, especially Biden.
But today in Orlando, Obama grabbed a page from Trump’s playbook and smacked back.
“Our current president, he whines that ‘60 Minutes’ is too tough,” Obama said, referring to a recent Trump interview with reporter Lesley Stahl. “You think he's going to stand up to dictators? He thinks Lesley Stahl’s a bully. Just yesterday, he said Putin of Russia, Xi of China, and Kim Jong Un of North Korea want him to win.”
“We know,” Obama said, and then referred to Trump, “because you've been giving them whatever they want for the last four years. Of course, they want you to win. That’s not a good thing. … Why are you bragging about that? Come on.”
Obama conjured up images of 2008 and 2012, when he would combine folksiness, politics, and incredulousness in his own presidential campaigns. On Monday, his voice sometimes cracked as he raised it to a shout.
Supporters would honk in response. The drive-in rally, which promotes social distancing, mirrored that of a recent Orlando event that featured Kamala Harris, Biden’s running mate.
Like Harris, Obama spoke at a podium as supporters stayed inside or beside their cars. And like Harris, Obama wore a mask up to the stage.
With Biden and Harris, Obama said, “You're not going to have to worry about what crazy things they're going to say, what they're going to tweet. They're just going to be too busy doing the work.”
“It just won't be so exhausting,” Obama continued. “You'll be able to go about your lives, knowing that the president’s not going to retweet conspiracy theories about secret cabals running the world …”
Obama also blasted Trump as showing interest in helping only “himself and his friends,” treating the White House as “a reality show,” and complaining instead of leading during the coronavirus pandemic, which the former president noted has claimed more than 225,000 lives in the U.S. and has cost hundreds of thousands of jobs in Florida.
“ ‘COVID, COVID, COVID,’ he’s complaining,” Obama said of Trump. “He’s jealous of COVID’s media coverage. If he had been focused on COVID from the beginning, cases wouldn't be reaching new record highs across the country this week.”
Obama added: “Think about how hard the tourism industry has been hit right here in Orlando, right here in Florida.”
While calling attention to his own performance on job growth and on health care, especially the Affordable Care Act, Obama trumpeted Biden’s plans on the coronavirus, clean energy, and the economy, plus plans for students, patients, and average workers.
He also warned that the Supreme Court, which now includes Amy Coney Barrett — Trump’s third appointee — aims to “take away your health care right now, as quickly as they can, in the middle of a pandemic.”
Perhaps above all, Obama urged Biden supporters to vote. Biden leads nationally, according to many polls, but hopes to avoid Election Day surprises from Trump, who in 2016 stunned Hillary Clinton with victories in key battleground states and won the presidency despite losing the popular vote.
Elsewhere in Florida, Ivanka Trump was scheduled to speak on her father's behalf in Sarasota, and the president's daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, was scheduled to speak in Cocoa before heading to Panama City Beach and Pensacola.
“Orlando,” Obama said, “I'm asking you to remember what this country can be, what it should be, what it must be. I'm asking you to believe in Joe's ability to lead this country out of these dark times, to help us build it back, then don't abandon those who are hurting right now.”