A Fired-Up Obama’s 2020 Job: Biden Bodyguard and Anti-Trump Troll

Clearly relishing the chance to strike back at his successor, the former president has been willing to throw punches on behalf of Joe Biden’s unity-focused campaign.

By Glenn Thrush

Former President Barack Obama bounded off the stage in Philadelphia last week after his debut as Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s 2020 battering ram and pronounced himself pumped — and even a bit delighted at the chance to troll his troll, President Trump.

“Oh man, that felt good,” Mr. Obama told a friend in a phone call — and he let Mr. Biden’s staff know that the ungainly format of the event, a “drive-in rally” where he addressed hundreds of supporters in cars in a stadium’s parking lot, had worked surprisingly well, according to several people close to the former president who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

In 2016, Mr. Obama took his whacks at Mr. Trump on behalf of Hillary Clinton. Then he stepped up his criticism of his successor during the 2018 midterm elections. This summer, during the virtual Democratic convention, he offered a damning jeremiad against the president, warning that Mr. Trump’s re-election would “tear our democracy down.”

But nothing Mr. Obama has said during the Trump era compares with his gleeful slag-heaping of scorn upon Mr. Trump in the closing days of the 2020 campaign, part of a two-week burst of activity that will culminate in a joint rally with Mr. Biden being planned for this coming weekend, according to Democratic officials.

Mr. Obama’s next big event is on Tuesday, when he will appear in Orlando at a rally intended to energize voters in Florida, a perennial neck-and-neck battleground and Mr. Trump’s adopted home state. It will be Mr. Obama’s third appearance since he resumed in-person campaigning last week.

Mr. Obama’s return to the trail is driven by a desire to help Mr. Biden in any way he can, according to friends and Democratic aides. He has already lent his name to about 50 fund-raising emails on behalf of Mr. Biden and other Democrats, in addition to cutting get-out-the-vote ads appearing in 15 swing states and raising millions of dollars through online fund-raisers.

Above all, he has been eager to reverse roles with his loyal helpmate, these allies and associates say, and willing to throw punches that would undermine the former vice president’s image as a national healer if Mr. Biden took the swing himself.

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