Where's Barack? With less than three weeks to go, Obama missing from Biden campaign trail

"He's doing enough for our campaign," said Joe Biden.

Updated: October 14, 2020 - 10:28am

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If you're a Democrat running for president, you've got one guy who knows an awful lot about winning the White House — Barack Obama.

Obama, who was 47 in 2008 and hadn't even completed his first term in the Senate, crushed two Republicans — Sen. John McCain and Sen. Mitt Romney. Obama beat the late Arizona senator in the Electoral College 365-173, then thumped the now-Utah senator 332-206.

So that raises the question: Where's Obama?

There are now fewer than three weeks to go before Election Day, and a handful of states — as usual — will decide the victor on Nov. 3 (or maybe weeks later). But Obama isn't in Wisconsin or Michigan or Pennsylvania or Ohio or Florida, stumping for his former vice president Joe Biden. 

His absence is so conspicuous that Team Biden felt the need to address the issue on Tuesday.

"President Obama plans to hit the trail soon, in addition to all the other activities he's undertaken all year in support of electing VP Biden — as he's said, we all have to do everything we can to win on November 3," an aide to the former president told ABC News.

Also on Tuesday, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) released a video showing Obama encouraging voters to "make a plan" to vote this year.

"So much is at stake in this election — from getting the pandemic under control to building a fairer economy to taking on climate change to protecting our health care," Obama says in the video. "History shows that the easiest way to make sure that you and your friends vote is to make a plan. And when it comes to voting this year, having a plan has never been more important."

Even Biden was asked about his former boss's absence. "He's doing enough for our campaign, he'll be out on the trail, and he's doing well," Biden said in New Castle, Del.

Back in April 2019, when Biden announced he would be running for the Democratic presidential nomination, Obama issued a statement through spokeswoman Katie Hill.

"President Obama has long said that selecting Joe Biden as his running mate in 2008 was one of the best decisions he ever made," the statement said. "He relied on the Vice President's knowledge, insight, and judgment throughout both campaigns and the entire presidency. The two forged a special bond over the last 10 years and remain close today."

But the statement was notably lacking a formal endorsement.

At the time, Biden said he had personally asked Obama not to issue an endorsement. "I asked President Obama not to endorse, and he doesn't want to. Listen, we should — whoever wins this nomination should win it on their own merits," he said when asked by reporters why Obama had not endorsed him.

President Trump in June  claimed that it's "rather a big secret" why former president Barack Obama has not come out and endorsed his vice president, Joe Biden.

"How he doesn't get President Obama to endorse him — there has to be some reason why he's not endorsing him," President Trump taunted in an interview with The Hill outside the Oval Office.

"He was the vice president," Trump said. "They seem to have gotten along. And how President Obama's not endorsing him is rather a big secret. Then he goes and lies and said, 'I asked the president not to endorse me.' Give me a break."

The former vice president had cast his candidacy as, essentially, a third term of the Obama administration, pledging to pick up where his former boss left off. But then it was revealed that Obama quietly urged him not to run.

"The two men spoke at least a half dozen times before Mr. Biden decided to run, and Mr. Obama took pains to cast his doubts about the campaign in personal terms," The New York Times wrote in a piece headlined "Obama's and Biden's Relationship Looks Rosy. It Wasn't Always That Simple."

"'You don’t have to do this, Joe, you really don't,' Mr. Obama told Mr. Biden earlier this year, according to a person familiar with the exchange."

All that has led to questions as to whether Obama really wants Biden to win the White House. "Sleepy Joe," as Trump likes to call Biden, certainly hopes the charismatic Obama will take to the road to help him, but the 44th president hasn't been all that helpful so far, so only time will tell if he does.