“Everyone’s been wondering how you campaign in a pandemic, and we’re trying to show them how,” says Eric Schultz, a senior adviser to the former president.
Obama will spend much of the next few weeks texting, tweeting, and recording web videos. He’s agreed to a few interviews with podcast hosts he can count on to let him say what he wants: One with his former campaign manager David Plouffe, and another on Pod Save America, whose hosts met while working for him. “A very important question after the election, even if it goes well with Joe Biden, is whether you start seeing the Republican Party restore some sense of ‘Here are norms that we can’t breach,’ because [Trump’s] breached all of them, and they have not said to him, ‘This is too far,’” Obama told the Pod Save America hosts yesterday.
Obama has raised more money for the Biden campaign via text and emails with his name on them than anyone other than Biden and Harris themselves; a text of his from late September is one of the top 10 of all time for money raised. Sitting at his table at home, he has appeared at several fundraisers for the Biden campaign, for House Democrats, and for All on the Line, the redistricting group that he helped found and that merged with his Organizing for Action group two years ago.
Over the summer, Obama advised LeBron James as the NBA star was figuring out how to get more involved in politics. Obama has stayed involved with James’s group, More Than a Vote—a surprise appearance in the virtual fan section for Game 1 of the NBA Finals, alongside past Lakers stars and poll workers, led to a tripling of the number of volunteers who signed up as poll workers. “He’s a figure of cultural significance now, not just political significance,” says Addisu Demissie, the group’s executive director, explaining why he thinks Obama was able to help in a way that other politicians couldn’t.
This is the first election cycle in 20 years that Obama hasn’t been out on the trail. As much as he enjoys not having to interrupt his schedule, he misses the crowds cheering for him. He misses whipping people up in person, especially against Trump, whom he despises so deeply. But he did draw 120,826 viewers to the grassroots fundraiser he appeared at in June for Biden, raising $11 million in small donations—way more people, and probably more money, than he could have raised at a single live event.
Obama has also continued to make endorsements, including many for down-ballot races—and after years of Democrats distancing themselves from him when he was in the White House, the number of swing-district candidates now chasing his public support has gratified him. He’s thrown his weight around a little, endorsing Reverend Raphael Warnock in one of this year’s Georgia Senate elections. That earned Obama a brushback from another Democratic candidate, Matt Lieberman, who tweeted at Warnock, “Congrats on endorsement from 44 who has endorsed every DC-approved Senate candidate.”