Former President Barack Obama urged students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to get out and vote.
ANAHEIM, Calif. – Following a fiery appearance in his home state of Illinois, former President Barack Obama brought a softer tone Saturday to Orange County, California – a traditional GOP stronghold.
Obama avoided direct jabs at Donald Trump, sidestepping mentioning the president by name. He focused instead on the effort to support congressional candidates in amping up the crowd.
“If we don’t step up, things are going to get worse,” he said. “In two months we have a chance to restore some sanity to our politics.”
That left some supporters wanting more.
“I wish he had gone a little harder on Trump,” said Lee Rice, 73, an electrician from Oakdale in California’s central valley. Obama was “a lot lower key than yesterday’s speech.”
In that speech Friday at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Obama took direct aim at Trump, referring to “crazy stuff that is coming out of this White House.”
But Saturday, speaking to about 900 Democratic supporters at the Anaheim Convention Center here, Obama stressed the need for Democrats to win House races.
He blasted the “politics of fear” and said “the only way we reverse anger and division is when citizens step up to say ‘we’re going to do things differently.'”
He talked about the need to recognize the dangers of climate change, especially given California’s natural beauty, and the cause of education. But he didn’t delve into some of his legacy issues like the Affordable Care Act, which could play a large role in November races.
Supporters, some wearing T-shirts supporting congressional candidates, cheered him and broke into chants of “Take it back,” referring to Congress where both houses are controlled by the GOP.
Some said they didn’t mind that Obama took a softer approach.
The speech was “something different,” said Esther Castaneda, 34, a small business owner from Orange, California. “He’s very selective about where and what time” he delivers his messages.
There was no immediate reaction from Trump, who, in remarks to a crowd in North Dakota, took Obama’s speech Friday in stride. “I’m sorry, I watched it, but I fell asleep … I found he’s very good – very good for sleeping,” he said.
Obama delivered his message Saturday in one of the most critical counties in the country for Democrats ahead of the November midterms. For generations, Orange County has been known for its right-wing politics – even as Los Angeles County to the north skewed far more to the left.
Democrats are counting on a strong showing in California in November’s elections in the battle for congressional control. They are targeting several congressional districts. While Democrats have gained, Republicans overall still have a registration edge in the county – 563,992 to 516,121 at the start of the year, according to the California Secretary of State’s office.
Demographics have changed with an influx of Latinos, Asians and other immigrants.
The county’s economy has evolved to more services and high-tech jobs that attract white-collar workers who are inclined to vote Democratic.
Like much of the country, unemployment is low in Orange County and the economy is strong, meaning turnout could be more dependent on anger about Trump and his policies rather than dissatisfaction with the state of the nation.
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