Former president Barack Obama made a surprise appearance in front of Democratic canvassers at a campaign office in Fairfax on Monday to rally support for Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and state Sen. Jennifer T. Wexton (D-33).
The former president’s visit shows just how important Democrats consider the races for Virginia’s Congressional seats. Kaine is running for reelection against Republican Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart and Libertarian Matt Waters. Wexton is campaigning to unseat Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10).
Obama said among other things, “health care is on the ballot.”
“You vote, you might save a life. That’s pretty rare, when that happens. Making sure working families get a fair shot, that’s on the ballot. But most importantly, the character of this country is on the ballot. Who we are is on the ballot. What kind of politics we expect is on the ballot. How we conduct ourselves in public life is on the ballot. How we treat other people is on the ballot.”
After handing the Oval Office off to President Donald J. Trump, Obama largely retreated from public political life. But during the midterm election cycle, he has once again become a vocal campaigner, lending his name to Democratic candidates across the country. He has also become increasingly critical of Trump.
He spoke of a “great awakening” among Americans.
“People who I think had taken for granted that we had made certain strides, that we had made certain progress—’yeah of course women are treated with respect, yeah of course we’re not going to judge people based on their skin color or their last name, of course we’re going to expect basic decency and honesty and straight talk from folks in high office’—suddenly people woke up and said, oh, I guess we can’t take this for granted. We’ve got to fight for this.”
He also reflected on tempering expectations, both after his own election in 2008 and again after this year’s midterms.
“I want you all to be in this for the long haul,” Obama said. “It’s a long race, making the world better. One election is not going to change everything.” But, he added, “what it does mean is things start getting better. And better is really important.”