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Obama stumping for Biden, back on the campaign trail; records TV spot for Durbin

Former President Barack Obama said he voted for Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois in the ad he made for his long-time friend.

Former President Barack Obama speaks during a drive-in rally while campaigning for Democratic nominee Joe Biden on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020,  in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Former President Barack Obama speaks during a drive-in rally while campaigning for Democratic nominee Joe Biden on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Former President Barack Obama recorded a TV spot boosting Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and with early voting taking place nationwide, kicked-off his first in-person appearance this cycle at a drive-in rally for Joe Biden in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

“Honk if you are fired up,” Obama said as he wrapped up his speech in swing state Pennsylvania, revamping his famous 2008 slogan into the COVID-19 2020 version.

“Turn out like never before,” Obama said at the Biden drive-in rally. With President Donald Trump already saying he may question the results, Obama said, “We cannot leave any doubt in this election.”

Obama and former first lady Michelle still vote from their Chicago house at 5046 S. Greenwood Ave. They have another home in Washington as well as their post-presidential offices. According to the Chicago Board of Elections database, their vote-by-mail ballot applications were processed on Sept. 27.


The Obama spot for Durbin will air in the Chicago market starting Thursday over cable and broadcast outlets.

While Durbin is the frontrunner in his reelection bid — and Obama is very selective about how he uses his campaign time, picking and choosing who he personally helps — when it comes to boosting Durbin, their long friendship comes into play.

Obama has been close to Durbin since his 2004 run for a Senate seat from Illinois, when, after Obama won his primary, Durbin, the senior senator from Illinois, took him around the state to introduce him.

“I just wanted to let you know how proud I am to cast my ballot for my friend. Dick Durbin, for U.S. Senate,” Obama said in the spot.

“He’s been a leader on criminal justice reform, economic opportunity and making health care a right, not a privilege. But mostly I want you to know that Dick Durbin is a man of decency, integrity and compassion.

“So I hope you’ll join me in voting to keep Dick Durbin standing up for us.”


A specific Obama focus is boosting Black male turnout for Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., the Sun-Times has learned.

Black females are among the most dependable Democratic voters; Obama is trying to bring up the numbers when it comes to Black men.

Obama has done a variety of virtual programs and events to register new voters and to speak to young voters during the presidential campaign, and Democrats have been anxious for him to do in-person campaigning.

With the Nov. 3 election looming — and with Obama now stumping in–person — “We are going to leave nothing on the field,” said his spokesman, Eric Schultz.

Obama is expected to make stops for the Biden campaign to bolster the early vote in the handful of key swing states whose voters will determine the outcome.

According to the Biden campaign, after the Jacob Blake police shooting in Kenosha this summer — in the swing state of Wisconsin, which Trump only narrowly won in 2016 — the campaign launched their “Shop Talk” program to organize Black men. “Shop Talk roundtable discussions highlight the challenges impacting Black men across the country,” the campaign said in a statement.

As part of his spurring Black male voter turnout, Obama, in Philadelphia, joined a “Shop Talk” conversation with local leaders and elected officials to discuss, according to the pool report, “issues facing Black men in the community and the importance of voting in this election.”

Biden had no events on his Wednesday schedule, the day before the second and final presidential debate.


The last time Obama stumped in Chicago was on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, at a rally at the UIC Pavilion, 525 S. Racine Ave., to boost the entire Democratic ticket, then led by now Gov. J.B. Pritzker.