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Obama delivers scathing rebuke of Trump before final debate

During a speech in Philadelphia, former President Barack Obama delivered a blistering account of his successor's first four years in office, arguing that President Donald Trump has proved he is "incapable of taking the job seriously" and has shown no interest in "helping anybody but himself and his friends."

Posted: Oct 22, 2020 1:00 AM
Updated: Oct 22, 2020 1:00 AM

Barack Obama, in a moment of catharsis that doubled as a warning against Democratic complacency, blasted President Donald Trump in a speech dripping with ridicule ahead of Thursday's crucial debate -- perhaps the President's last chance to turn around his campaign.

The former President on Wednesday released four years of pent-up frustration in a scathing Philadelphia appearance that is likely to further irk an already irritable commander-in-chief ahead of his showdown with Democratic nominee Joe Biden. The debate in Nashville, Tennessee, comes at a fateful moment in the White House race as fresh polls emphasize the task Trump faces in pulling off another shock election triumph in 12 days.

In a new CNN/SSRS survey, Biden leads comfortably in Pennsylvania, potentially the decisive swing state, with a clear path to 270 electoral votes if he converts leads in Wisconsin and Michigan into wins. That leaves Trump needing the kind of late surge that took him to a stunning 2016 victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton. It also means his clash with Biden, already crucial given that their second debate was canceled after his Covid-19 diagnosis, could be a final opportunity to shake up the race.

But with a staggering 40 million early votes cast, the capacity of either candidate to change the dynamics of the election is becoming increasingly limited. As he geared up for the debate, Trump slammed the whole exercise as unfair, resentful about at a plan to periodically mute the candidates' mics designed to limit his belligerent interruptions and baselessly accusing moderator Kristen Welker of NBC of bias.

He is likely to have been especially infuriated by Obama's mockery and forensic dismissal of his record given his contempt for, and obsession with, the former President. Obama's appearance on the eve of a debate in which Trump's hair-trigger temper will be sorely tested was probably not a coincidence.

In another development on Wednesday, federal officials said that both Iran and Russia have obtained US voter registration information in an effort to interfere in the election. They said Islamic Republic operatives posed as the far-right Proud Boys -- a group which Trump refused to fully repudiate during the last debate -- to send intimidating emails to voters.

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said Iran's intent was to damage the President. Democrats and former officials in the covert officials will view his statement through a political lens, given his failure to immediately provide evidence and his past efforts to politicize intelligence to help Trump.

'They would have called me Beijing Barry'

The 44th President pounced on Trump's admission that there is "not much" he would change in one of the world's least successful attempts to quell a virus that has killed more than 221,000 Americans and devastated the economy.

"Really? Not much? Nothing you can think of that could have helped some people keep their loved ones alive?" Obama, who came on stage wearing a face mask bearing the world "Vote."

"Joe's not going to screw up testing. He's not going to call scientists idiots. He's not going to host a super spreader event at the White House. Joe will get this pandemic under control," Obama said of the man he chose to be his vice president 12 years ago.

His intervention, an extraordinarily scathing rebuke of a sitting President by a former President, was a reminder in itself how the Trump era has shredded White House protocols. More broadly, it emphasized how the politics of the last 12 years are an unresolved contest between the philosophies and deportment of the first Black President and a successor who built his brand with a racist conspiracy theory about his predecessor's birth place.

Obama particularly relished exploiting a report by The New York Times based on Trump's financial records that the President has a bank account in China -- even as he slams Biden for being soft on the communist giant.

"Listen, can you imagine, if I had had a secret Chinese bank account when I was running for reelection?" Obama said. "You think Fox News might have been a little concerned about that? They would have called me Beijing Barry."

Obama rained down attack after attack on Trump and his character. He belittled him for "tweeting at the television." He warned "this President wants full credit for the economy he inherited and zero blame for the pandemic he ignored."

Obama said Biden and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, had a plan to get America out of its current "mess" and warned Trump's rhetoric had emboldened the cruelty and racism of others.

He blasted the President's unfulfilled promises to come up with a replacement for Obamacare, even though his administration will argue for its eradication in the Supreme Court a week after the election.

"It's been coming in two weeks for the last 10 years. Where is it?"

And he portrayed the possibility of a Biden-Harris administration as a chance for some peace and quiet after four tumultuous years.

"With Joe and Kamala at the helm, you're not going to have to think about the crazy things they said every day ... It just won't be so exhausting. You might be able to have a Thanksgiving dinner without having an argument."

Trump tries to mock Obama

In a campaign setting, Obama's speech was even more visceral than his more spiritual and lawyerly indictments of Trump delivered at the funeral of late Rep. John Lewis and at the virtual Democratic National Convention. It was a reminder of Obama's talent as an orator and skill at framing overarching political arguments that won him two White House terms.

But the former President was also a singular figure who often struggled to transfer his aura to other Democratic candidates. As he spoke it was impossible not to be reminded that it was also in Philadelphia four years ago where he gave a speech urging Americans to choose Hillary Clinton on election eve in which he also took aim at Trump's policies and temperament. The next day, Trump defied the polls and pulled off a shock win in Pennsylvania en route to a national victory that was in essence a backlash against Obama's eight years in office.

Obama obliquely referred to that moment on Wednesday, when he pleaded with Democratic voters to turn up higher numbers than in 2016.

"I don't care about the polls. There were a whole bunch of polls last time. Didn't work out. Because a whole bunch of folks stayed at home. And got lazy and complacent. Not this time. Not in this election. Not this time," he said.

While Obama blasted his presidency, Trump traveled to North Carolina, a swing state that he needs to retain to keep his path to a second term viable, and suggested the former President's reemergence was good news.

"There was nobody that campaigned harder for crooked Hillary Clinton than Obama, right? He was all over the place," Trump said at a rally in Gastonia. "The only one who was more unhappy than crooked Hillary that night was Barack Hussein Obama."

Harris was also in North Carolina on Wednesday, and aimed some of the most pointed rhetoric of the Democratic general election campaign so far.

"People have been asking me -- journalists -- well, you know, do you think he's a racist? Yes. Yes, I do," Harris said.

"And there's a pattern here ... I don't say that lightly. One should never say that lightly. But there's a pattern here."

Trump needs a comeback

Trump's presence in yet another state that was in his column in 2016 was just the latest attempt by the President to defend territory that his campaign would have liked to consider safe by now.

The President enters the last 12 days of the campaign -- in which he is planning a blitz of swing states in rallies that ignore the threat that crowds can transmit Covid-19 -- needing one of the most impressive comebacks in modern politics.

Two new swing state polls for CNN by SSRS explain the magnitude of his task. Biden leads by 53% to 43% in Pennsylvania, which has 20 electoral votes and which he cannot afford to lose. In Florida, another Trump state in 2016, the contest is within the margin of error with Biden up 4% among likely voters. The surveys were consistent with other recent polling in the two states. Trump's campaign insists that public polling is inaccurate since it does not properly model the size of the President's support and predicts that a huge influx of new Trump voters will confound polls again and carry him to victory.

As millions of Americans cast early and absentee ballots -- an attractive option as the pandemic worsens it's already clear that Trump has lost one Republican vote -- that of his party's 2012 nominee, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney.

"I did not vote for the President," Romney said Wednesday, though declined to disclose whether he had voted for Biden or someone else.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1118335

Reported Deaths: 17712
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1455892240
Lake724831254
Allen67063882
Hamilton51060487
St. Joseph49820649
Elkhart40268546
Vanderburgh34714497
Tippecanoe30808276
Johnson27696467
Hendricks26313385
Porter25657386
Madison21131455
Clark20238279
Vigo19059309
LaPorte17192261
Howard16770314
Delaware16761303
Monroe16628220
Kosciusko14293167
Hancock13113186
Bartholomew12983190
Warrick12210190
Wayne12090269
Floyd12011226
Grant11998245
Morgan10409192
Boone9869124
Noble9316122
Henry9177169
Marshall9152147
Dearborn8970100
Dubois8835140
Shelby8281130
Cass8167128
Lawrence8057185
DeKalb7817109
Jackson770793
Huntington7661115
Gibson7102118
Montgomery7101123
Harrison6954100
Knox6915116
Steuben669089
Whitley659660
Miami6595113
Putnam645085
Clinton627179
Wabash6221111
Jasper613192
Jefferson5856105
Ripley557294
Adams542281
Daviess5076117
Scott491580
Wells4836105
White478469
Greene4701101
Clay464662
Decatur4611110
Fayette452496
Jennings452067
LaGrange427491
Posey410044
Randolph3944107
Washington390956
Fountain375964
Fulton364874
Spencer362247
Starke355574
Owen353577
Sullivan348555
Orange331372
Jay331050
Rush309533
Carroll296239
Franklin292744
Perry290553
Vermillion283658
Tipton251167
Parke250130
Pike248644
Blackford222144
Pulaski210359
Newton182452
Brown177550
Crawford169129
Benton168417
Martin152120
Switzerland147612
Warren135816
Union122616
Ohio92413
Unassigned0595

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1717876

Reported Deaths: 26851
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1793291843
Cuyahoga1681592655
Hamilton1137721544
Montgomery805721405
Summit719531210
Lucas630291027
Butler56852814
Stark538501183
Lorain42330645
Warren35959417
Mahoning35798788
Lake32314501
Clermont31289369
Trumbull27344620
Delaware27206185
Licking26658344
Medina26042353
Fairfield24638287
Greene24378373
Clark22122390
Portage21257283
Richland21102342
Wood20128248
Allen18969326
Miami17338352
Columbiana16905335
Muskingum16726207
Wayne15740307
Tuscarawas14454362
Marion13332196
Ashtabula12732237
Erie12685199
Scioto12475188
Pickaway12260155
Ross11719226
Hancock11529175
Geauga10934179
Lawrence10653172
Belmont10459234
Huron9805159
Jefferson9632228
Union957375
Sandusky9348166
Seneca8917161
Knox8792176
Washington8688159
Darke8399181
Athens838197
Ashland8029152
Auglaize7943120
Shelby7511135
Defiance7358117
Crawford7281150
Fulton7215113
Brown7173116
Logan7003111
Guernsey696186
Mercer6933100
Highland6745120
Clinton6526106
Williams650099
Madison649790
Preble6274140
Putnam6244122
Jackson581597
Champaign580887
Perry566779
Coshocton5645108
Ottawa5641102
Morrow517765
Fayette494072
Hardin4895100
Gallia471478
Van Wert467895
Pike465578
Adams4592110
Henry434280
Hocking410193
Holmes3999141
Wyandot377675
Carroll366178
Paulding325451
Meigs305961
Monroe235961
Noble220349
Morgan216939
Harrison213153
Vinton187638
Unassigned06
Fort Wayne
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Feels Like: 23°
Angola
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Feels Like: 27°
Huntington
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29° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 29°
Decatur
Cloudy
29° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 23°
Van Wert
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34° wxIcon
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Saturday is looking great, with warmer temperatures, wet and windy conditions returning Sunday.
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