CLEVELAND — Former President Barack Obama used a stump speech on Thursday night to boost Ohio’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Richard Cordray, and more of the party’s candidates in the state, while at the same time bashing Republicans who control Congress and the White House.
Obama urged supporters here to not only back Cordray, the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in his administration, but to also rally voters to back the nominee regardless of party.
“Rich is someone who has always been committed to solving problems,” Obama said, adding that Cordray “represents the kind of leadership we need.”
In making that argument, Obama took thinly veiled shots at President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans, saying they’re taking too much credit for the country’s low unemployment rate.
Again and again in front of an audience of 3,000 at the former East High School in Cleveland, the former president and most high-profile Democratic surrogate in the country referred to Republicans as “leaders just yakking and yakking every day.” He ticked off Cordray’s work at the CFPB and praised it for helping to rein in corruption on Wall Street.
“He didn’t go around trying to take credit for it. He didn’t tweet about it,” Obama said, an allusion to Trump’s Twitter habits that sparked cheers from the crowd.
The former president also dinged Republicans in Congress for taking too much credit for the U.S. recovery, and for not changing their message after years of being angry and critical when they were out of power and the economy was growing.
“The Republicans won the House, they won the Senate. They’re still mad,” he said. “Which is interesting. So just remember when you hear about these folks bragging about this economic period, just remember when it started.”
Obama’s remarks come as Democrats in Ohio look to energize and increase turnout for Cordray, one of the highest-priority gubernatorial candidates in the 2018 midterm cycle. Recent polling has shown Cordray in a near dead heat with state Attorney General Mike DeWine, the Republican nominee.
Democrats are hoping that strong turnout and broad support for Cordray among the most prominent Democrats in the country will end Republicans’ control of the Ohio governor’s mansion, as well as the state Legislature.
Obama’s speech in the high school auditorium followed remarks by Sen. Sherrod Brown, Cordray himself and other Democratic candidates, who all urged those in the party to stay active and vote. They also promised that Cordray and other nominees would clean up corruption in the statehouse and protect healthcare for Ohioans.
“Rich Cordray can stand up to the banks, he can stand up to Wall Street, he can stand up to payday lenders. … You can sure as hell bet Rich Cordray’s going to stand up for us,” Brown told the audience before Obama spoke. And like the former president, Brown urged attendees “to start thinking about five people who you know” and get them to vote — another push that shows Democrats’ desire to increase turnout dramatically in hopes of winning offices they’ve struggled for years to pick up.
Cordray himself echoed those calls.
“Let me speak very plainly to you right now: We need your help to get there. It’s not enough to tweet,” he said. “It’s not just about getting yourself to the polls. It’s about getting friends and family and maybe even a few people who may have never voted before.”