Former President Barack Obama and his vice president, Joe Biden, on Tuesday held their first joint event of the 2020 campaign, where Obama warned Democrats against becoming complacent about the presidential election and offered an unusually direct and detailed rebuke of President Trump.
The split-screen appearance of the presumptive Democratic nominee and his former boss came as Biden has enjoyed a run of strong fund-raising, while a spate of recent polls have shown him holding as much as a double-digit lead over Trump. Biden’s campaign announced Tuesday that the event had raised $7.6 million from 175,000 grassroots contributors.
But Obama instructed the 120,000 people who logged on to watch that they must not take the election for granted.
“We can’t be complacent or smug or sense that somehow it’s so obvious that this president hasn’t done a good job, because look, he won once,” Obama said.
“This is serious business,” he added. “Whatever you’ve done so far is not enough. And I hold myself and Michelle and our kids to that same standard.”
Throughout their joint appearance, which ran a little more than an hour, Obama — who speaks infrequently about Trump — praised Biden’s character and experience, and cast the president as a grave threat to the character and values of the nation.
He said that Trump exploited and amplified divisions, and Obama expressed concerns about the example Trump was setting on the world stage, citing his “militarized response to peaceful demonstrators” and saying he “basically threatens and consistently impugns the free press.”
Such an approach, he suggested, emboldened dictators around the world who may doubt they will be held to account by the United States.
Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for Trump, said in response that the president “makes every decision based on what’s best for the people of the United States, rather than what will make him popular at the United Nations.”
As Obama and Biden assembled on screen, campaigning virtually amid the coronavirus crisis, Trump was on the trail in Arizona, a few days after holding a rally in Tulsa, Okla., that drew widespread condemnation from public health officials.