Stumping for Pa. Dems, Obama declares midterm vote ‘most important of my lifetime’

Stumping for Pennsylvania's Democratic slate, former present urges millennials to vote on Nov. 6

Listen :56

Six weeks before the midterm election, former President Barack Obama had a simple message for Friday night’s crowd in North Philadelphia.

Vote on Nov. 6.

“There’s only one real check on bad policy, and there’s only one real check on the abuse of power, and that is you,” said Obama to the thousands seated – and standing – inside The Dell Music Center.

Obama specifically called on millennials to hit the polls.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“The biggest threat to our democracy is when young people think that ‘it’s not about me, I’m just gonna look at my phone.’ Look at your phone to see where you can vote. Look at your phone to see how can I get involved,” he said.

Obama was in town as part of a multi-state push to elect Democrats – at the federal and state level. So far, he’s appeared at similar rallies in California, Illinois and Ohio.

In Washington, Democrats are hopeful this election can shift the balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Pennsylvania is a big part of that push. Democrats think they can flip as many as five seats in the commonwealth from red to blue, thanks to a new court-ordered congressional district map. And experts say the effort could hinge on what happens in the redrawn districts in the southeastern part of the state.

As it stands, Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Bob Casey’s re-election bid appears safe. A Franklin & Marshall College poll released in late August shows the state’s senior senator with a double-digit lead over Republican opponent Lou Barletta, who currently serves in the U.S. House.

Obama, who told the crowd he “loves me some Bob Casey,” said change is desperately needed. He said there’s “no check on the White House” and that Republicans are “bending over backwards to shield folks from scrutiny and accountability.”

“This election won’t fix everything, but it will kick-start some progress,” said Obama, who made references to President Donald Trump, but never uttered his name.

Obama and other speakers also used Friday night’s “Pennsylvania Votes Blue” rally to plug candidates running for seats in Harrisburg, including Gov.Tom Wolf, who is seeking a second term in office.

Both chambers of the General Assembly are solidly Republican, but Democrats believe they can chip away at those majorities.

Half of the seats in the state’s 50-member Senate, as well as all 203 seats in the House, are on the ballot this year.

“We need to shake up Harrisburg, and we’ve got just the candidates to do it,” said state Sen. Vincent Hughes of Philadelphia.

When it was his turn at the mic, Wolf championed the national agenda Obama pushed during his two terms in office — issues Wolf has supported in Pennsylvania, including affordable health care, same-sex marriage and reproductive rights.

“I am standing up as the last line of defense for President Obama’s legacy and for all the Democratic values we hold dear,” said Wolf.

“Nothing less than our democracy is at stake.”

The same Franklin & Marshall College Poll gives Wolf a comfortable lead over Republican Scott Wagner, a former state senator, who resigned that seat after winning the GOP primary for governor.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal