SPOTLIGHT

Obama Wakes Up Virginia Dems

At least, that’s the party’s hope ahead of next month’s elections.

Former President Barack Obama, right, speaks as Virginia's Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam listens during a rally in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017.
AP Photo/Steve Helber
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Zach C. Cohen
Oct. 20, 2017, 11:01 a.m.

RICHMOND, Va.—President Obama didn’t dance around the reason for his presence here Thursday. He lightly admonished the irregular voters attending Ralph Northam’s rally for governor, saying Democrats “get a little sleepy” in off-year elections.

As Obama urged the roughly 7,500 in attendance to vote and canvass for the whole ticket ahead of the Nov. 7 Election Day, organizers collected cell-phone numbers and volunteers’ availability to get as much help as possible for what appears to be a close race against Republican Ed Gillespie.

Northam, the lieutenant governor, must mobilize Democrats who in the past three presidential elections turned out to vote for Obama and Hillary Clinton. Democrats are optimistic: 227,000 more Virginians voted in the primary between Northam and former Rep. Tom Perriello than in the Republican contest between Gillespie and now-Senate candidate Corey Stewart.

Obama’s appearance could also shore up support with African-Americans, with whom a poll found Northam underperforming Gov. Terry McAuliffe‘s 2013 campaign. While Northam courted that bloc during the primary, his campaign recently fumbled by printing fliers that excluded his black running mate, Justin Fairfax.

Northam told Hotline last week that Obama wanted to “make sure that he energizes his supporters” and that the campaign chose Richmond for its centrality between the Washington suburbs and Hampton Roads, where the race is closer than in Northern Virginia.

Zach C. Cohen

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