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The Obama-Biden Thing & Jeff Roe Déjà Vu

President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama greet Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Josh Shapiro at the Liacouras Center on November 5, 2022 in Philadelphia.
Joe Biden will have plenty of surrogate support going into 2024. But the most important surrogate may be his old boss, Barack Obama. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images
Tara Palmeri
November 30, 2023

As an incumbent president running for re-election against a twice-impeached, multi-indicted Florida Man, Joe Biden will have plenty of surrogate support. Gavin Newsom, Gretchen Whitmer, Wes Moore, Raphael Warnock, Maxwell Frost, Victor Shi, and other young voter advocates will be actively stumping on the ground and airwaves. The campaign will also enlist celebrities like LeBron James and Taylor Swift. But the most important surrogate may be his old boss, Barack Obama.

Of course, Obama and Biden have a multilayered relationship that contains elements of profound trust (being the “last in the room,” Obamacare history, the Beau bereavement process) and complexity (the Hillary of it all, Obama’s refusal to back Biden in the early days of 2020, etcetera). Meanwhile, ever since Obama left the White House, his political posture has been calibrated to optimize scarcity for maximum impact. In a typical campaign cycle, after all, Obama will parachute in during the final weeks of the election, hold a half-dozen rallies, record a bunch of robocalls, collaborate with influencers, and usually sit for several broadcast TV and podcast interviews.