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Obama Appears On Biden's Campaign Trail In Philadelphia


Former President Barack Obama gave an impassioned speech in Philadelphia this evening, pleading with voters to turn out for his former vice president.


BARACK OBAMA: You guys delivered for me twice. And I am back here tonight to ask you to deliver the White House for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

SHAPIRO: He also gave a blistering criticism of President Trump to a honking crowd at the drive-in rally. And NPR political correspondent Asma Khalid is in Philly with Obama. She joins us now.

Hi, Asma.


SHAPIRO: What was Obama's message tonight?

KHALID: Well, really, Ari, this seemed to be a message that was focused on boosting turnout and specifically targeted to folks that I would describe as kind of disillusioned Democrats, people who are not sure that voting really yields the kind of results that they want. And he spoke to that.


OBAMA: The fact that we don't get 100% of what we want right away is not a good reason not to vote. It means we've got to vote and then get some change and then vote some more and then get some more change and then keep on voting until we get it right.

KHALID: And, Ari, this is a message that he delivered earlier in the day prior to this drive-in rally. He held a roundtable with a group of young Black men, all leaders in the Philadelphia community. And this is something that came up there as well - is specifically, how do you get young Black folks who might not really be sold on voting to believe that - you know, even though progress, he says, can be slow sometimes - that it's worth it. The other thing he did, though, that I thought was really notable is he really offered a stinging rebuke of President Trump on how the president has handled COVID and how he feels that the president has boosted conspiracy theories and created a culture that emboldens people to be cruel and racist.

SHAPIRO: You know, Barack Obama is kind of like the definition of the big guns. Tell me about the significance of his appearing in person on the trail with two weeks left in the campaign.

KHALID: It's hugely significant, Ari, I mean, in major part because he is still a celebrity within Democratic circles. You know, as we were riding around Philly, you saw people lining the streets to just snap a photo of him. He has that appeal. And, you know, the drive-n rally that was hosted tonight here in Philly - we were told by the campaign that it was the largest such drive-in rally they've had of the campaign cycle. But also, it speaks to Philadelphia and Pennsylvania being hugely important. You know, this is a state that Democrats feel they really need this cycle.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. Tell us more about that. I'm sure the campaign thought hard about where they would deploy President Obama, and it's not a coincidence that they picked Philadelphia.

KHALID: Exactly. You know, President Trump himself was in another part of the state. He was in Erie yesterday. And, you know, we heard Barack Obama reference that a couple of times. But, really, if Democrats want to win Pennsylvania, they need to boost turnout in and around Philadelphia. And that's where we saw, you know, President Obama being deployed today to do that. I was, you know, struck - and this is something we've talked so much about - that in 2016, President Trump broke the blue wall - the so-called blue wall by narrowly winning Pennsylvania. It's a state that flipped to him by just about 40,000 votes. And in part, that is because, you know, Hillary Clinton wasn't able to have the African American support that she needed. And Democrats are really trying to make sure that doesn't happen this cycle.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Asma Khalid on the campaign trail.

Thank you, Asma.

KHALID: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.

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