Former President Barack Obama has been hitting the campaign trail in the lead-up to next week’s midterm elections. And while everyone on the “Morning Joe” panel agreed Thursday that he’s a masterful speaker, some doubted that he could persuade Republican and Independent voters to vote Democrat.
“It’s extraordinary that he has to say the things he’s saying, that President Biden has to say the things he had to say last night, which is that there are people out there lying to you and that this really is about democracy, and you’ve gotta put people in office who are not going to disrespect the results of an election, who are not going to work to stage a coup against the United States government,” co-host Willie Geist began after showing a compilation of Obama’s best quotes while speaking in Arizona this week. “That will fall on deaf ears for a lot of the people in the state of Arizona, but the hope is that President Obama can speak to enough of those people still sitting on the fence to say, ‘This is too important to stay home.'”
Panelist Eddie Glaude Jr. of Princeton University agreed that that’s the hope, and that Obama makes “a coherent argument in so many ways,” but found it troubling that Obama’s presidency was in part the flashpoint that lead so many voters further right in the first place.
“You see the deployment of Barack Obama and even Donald Trump to try to bring the case home in these last days, but these two people are actually at the heart in interesting sorts of ways of the polarization of the country,” Glaude argued. “We know that his election in 2008, his reelection, in some ways was one of the motivating factors for some of the chaos we’re experiencing today.”
When host Joe Scarborough responded by highlighting the fact that Obama was able to clinch votes across the aisle in 2008 and 2012 – “Barack Obama was the first president to get elected with a majority vote two times since Eisenhower!” – Glaude wasn’t as optimistic.
“I think that’s a really important point, but for some reason, even as passionate and convincing as President Obama was last night, it felt as if that was ages ago,” he said.
“Oh it was ages ago, it was a lifetime ago,” Scarborough conceded.
Glaude said that he was worried that “the time has passed” where the kind of “reasoned discussion” that Obama represents was widely embraced.
Then asked by Scarborough to explain the tendency of many moderate voters in years past to switch parties every other election cycle – those who vote for Bill Clinton twice can next vote for George W. Bush twice can next vote for Barack Obama twice can next vote for Donald Trump – Adrienne Elrod of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee pointed to a through line that may connect them all.
“I think a lot of that has to do with the voters who are voting for ‘the outsider,’ who they consider to be somebody who’s running against Washington, who’s going to Washington to ‘fix’ things,” she explained. “I’m not going to give Donald Trump a lot of compliments for anything, but one thing that he was done somewhat well is that he has still positioned himself as somewhat of an outsider to Washington, even though he is not.”
So in the end, does Obama’s impassioned endorsement have a chance of swaying those voters who are still keen on Trump’s “outsider” status?
“We look at somebody like Barack Obama; he’s going out there to make the closing argument and to also motivate Democrats,” she said. “I don’t think he’s necessarily thinking he’s going to change any minds at this point, but he wants to make sure that every single Democrat and every single Independent who intends to vote for a Democrat knows what’s a stake.”
Watch the full “Morning Joe” panel debate in the video above.