Former president Barack Obama has warned about divisions fuelling a “dangerous climate” in US politics as he stumped for Democratic candidates on Saturday three days ahead of midterm elections that will determine control of Congress.
The biggest names in Democratic and Republican politics – Mr Obama, president Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump – are in Pennsylvania on Saturday hoping to tip the balance in a pivotal midterm US Senate race between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz.
Speaking to supporters in downtown Pittsburgh, Mr Obama said the politically motivated attack on Democratic house of representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul, was a product of hateful rhetoric.
“This habit we have of demonising political opponents, of saying crazy stuff, it creates a dangerous climate,” Mr Obama said, without referencing Republicans directly. “You’ve got politicians who work not to bring people together but to stir up division and to make us angry and afraid of one another just for their own advantage.”
Republicans contend that Democrats have also engaged in political violence, citing the widespread anti-racism protests that rocked the country in 2020. They have criticised Democrats for failing to keep their focus on inflation and crime, two of voters’ principal concerns, according to most opinion polls.
Mr Obama is capping a five-state tour aimed at stemming his party’s losses. After his Pittsburgh appearance alongside Mr Fetterman, he will head to Philadelphia, where he will take the stage at Temple University with Mr Biden.
Mr Biden started his day campaigning for representative Lauren Underwood of Illinois, who is at risk of losing her seat, hammering at a theme that Republicans might put Medicare and Social Security at risk and end federal programmes lowering prescription prices if they take control of Congress.
Mr Trump is set to gin up support for his handpicked Republican Senate nominee, Mr Oz, and Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano at a rally in Latrobe, southeast of Pittsburgh.
The former president is also working to maintain his own profile as he contemplates launching a third straight run for the White House after the midterms, according to advisers.
That could set the stage for a Biden-Trump rematch, though some Democrats say heavy losses for Mr Biden’s party on Tuesday could increase pressure on the president to step aside and let someone else carry the party’s mantle in 2024.
The Fetterman-Oz Senate race is one of three critical contests, along with Georgia and Nevada, that will determine whether Democrats hold on to their razor-thin majority in the Senate, and with it the power to confirm Mr Biden’s nominees to posts ranging from his cabinet to the supreme court.
Non-partisan election forecasters and polls show Republicans are heavy favourites to win control of the house, with the Senate a toss-up. Control of even one would give Republicans the power to block Mr Biden’s legislative agenda and launch potentially damaging investigations.
Some 38.8 million Americans have already cast early ballots, either in person or by mail, according to the US Elections Project. Election officials have said it could take days after Tuesday for final results to be clear in closely contested elections, such as the Pennsylvania and Georgia Senate races. – Reuters