By Ross Levitt, Artemis Moshtaghian and Athena Jones, CNN
Updated: Sun, 24 Oct 2021 12:27:37 GMT
Former President Barack Obama, stumping in Newark, New Jersey Saturday, took aim at Republican gubernatorial challenger Jack Ciattarelli, saying his participation in a rally to overturn the 2020 election shows "he's not going to be a champion of democracy."
Obama was making his second campaign stop of the day, this one in support of Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy's reelection campaign.
"Apparently Phil's opponent says he didn't know it was a rally to overturn the results of the last election," Obama said, "He didn't know it? Come on. When you're standing in front of a sign that says 'Stop the Steal' and there's a guy in the crowd waving a confederate flag, you know this isn't a neighborhood barbecue. You know it's not a league of women voters rally. Come on. Come on, man. That's not what New Jersey needs."
Ciattarelli acknowledged in a gubernatorial debate he attended a late November 2020 pro-Trump rally in Bedminster, New Jersey, home to the ex-President's golf club. But he said he did not see offensive signs, he believes Joe Biden is the legitimate President, and former President Donald Trump's rhetoric was responsible for the riot on January 6.
Obama touched on many of the same themes as he did on the stump earlier in the day in Virginia, in support of former governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe, who is running for the governor's seat against Republican Glenn Youngkin. He continued to ridicule Republicans for their false election claims, saying it showed the GOP lacked good ideas to promote. The approach mirrored McAuliffe's strategy: The gubernatorial candidate has looked to boost Democratic turnout in the commonwealth by nationalizing the race, comparing Youngkin to Trump at every opportunity.
During his New Jersey appearance, Obama spoke about the importance of voting.
"Democracy is not supposed to work where if you lose, you just ignore it and pretend it didn't happen, and our democracy is what makes America great," Obama said in an echo of Trump's slogan.
Obama addressed the crowd's boos when he addressed Senate Republicans blocking last week's voting and elections overhaul bill, saying one of his common refrains: "Don't boo! Vote! Booing doesn't do anything... Go out there and vote!"
The former president said he understood people are weary from the Covid-19 pandemic, but said, the country is at a turning point right now and asked voters in New Jersey to reject the "politics of meanness."
"That's the path to ruin," he said. "The good news is, there's another path."
Murphy, noting Democrats' advantage in the state, told the Newark crowd, "Our team shows up, we win." Otherwise, he said the race would likely be a tossup.