Former President Barack Obama made his first appearance on the campaign trail on Wednesday for Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who is locked in a tight race with President Donald Trump in crucial states with just 13 days to go in the campaign.
Obama, one of the Democratic Party’s biggest stars and a frequent target of Trump’s attacks, joined a roundtable discussion with Philadelphia Black male politicians and community and religious leaders before a 6 p.m. (2200 GMT) outdoor drive-in rally to urge supporters to vote early for Biden and other Democratic candidates.
“It’s good to see you,” Obama said, as he entered to applause from the 15 guests.
Obama’s appearance on the campaign trail this week fills a gap left by Biden, who has stayed at home in Delaware since Monday for meetings and preparation ahead of this week’s debate with Trump in Nashville, Tennessee. Biden was Obama’s vice president for eight years.
Trump will head to North Carolina, another battleground state where opinion polls show a tight race, for a rally on Wednesday evening.
The last days of campaigning are taking place amid a surge in new cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations in battleground states, including North Carolina and Pennsylvania but also Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan.
Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, has warned staff and supporters she sees a far closer race in the 17 states the campaign considers battlegrounds than is suggested by the national polls showing he has a wide lead.
Biden believes he must win his birth state of Pennsylvania, which Democrats narrowly lost to Trump in 2016, and has visited it more than any other state during the campaign.
Trump has gained ground in Pennsylvania, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Monday, which showed the challenger leading by 49% to 45%, slightly narrower than a week earlier.
“If we win Pennsylvania, we win the whole thing,” Trump said on Tuesday at a rally in Erie, in the state’s northwestern corner.
The record early vote so far represents about 30% of the total ballots cast in 2016, according to the University of Florida’s U.S. Elections Project.
Trump, who has resumed a crowded schedule of rallies since recovering from his recent bout with COVID-19, will appear on Wednesday night at an airport rally in Gastonia, North Carolina.
Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, is also in North Carolina to mobilize voters in Asheville and Charlotte.