Let him be clear: former President Barack Obama wants Arizonans to vote for Katie Hobbs and Mark Kelly in next week's election.
Obama is on tour in support of other Democrats who are still in tight races as this election cycle comes to a close. He was in Las Vegas Tuesday in support of Nevada's Democratic governor and senate candidates and made visits to Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia and other states in the past few weeks.
He remains one of the most popular figures in the Democratic party six years after he left office. His last-minute support comes as recent polls have Republican Kari Lake taking a slight lead over Democrat Hobbs, who is Arizona's secretary of state, in the race for governor. Polls show a close race between Kelly and his opponent, Blake Masters for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Obama joined Kelly, Hobbs and other Arizona Democrats Wednesday evening at the sold-out "Get Out the Vote" rally at Cesar Chavez High School in south Phoenix, a little more than 10 miles from ASU's Tempe campus.
Other people who spoke at the rally included Corporation Commissioner Sandra Kennedy, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, Democratic secretary of state candidate Adrian Fontes, Democratic attorney general candidate Kris Mayes, U.S. House Representative Ruben Gallego, other Arizona Democrats and one Republican, Mesa Mayor John Giles, who has endorsed Hobbs and Kelly.
This is the first time Kelly and Hobbs have shared the stage and the first time since 2015 that Obama visited Arizona. In 2008 and 2012, Obama lost Arizona in the general presidential election by 8.5% and 9.1%, respectively. Democrats lost Arizona in 2016 by 3.6% and barely won in 2020 by .3%.
Former President Donald Trump campaigned in Arizona for Lake, Masters, secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem and other Republicans five times this election cycle, most recently in Mesa on Oct. 9. At that rally, Trump spoke on familiar topics to Arizona voters: immigration, military aid in Ukraine and the 2020 presidential election results.
At the packed rally Wednesday, the former president brought enthusiasm to the stage after being introduced by Kelly to a loud reaction. Obama said some Republicans are being disingenuous and do not prioritize what people want. He went on the attack against Lake and Masters, and even dug at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, saying Republicans want to "own the libs" and nothing else.
He then went after the Arizona republicans who deny results from the 2020 election and Lake's push for ineffective treatments for COVID-19.
"Why would you vote for someone you know is not telling the truth?" Obama said.
He also said "democracy is on the ballot" and that it should be a high priority for voters. He endorsed every Democratic candidate in Arizona and said Republican leaders want to take away voting rights.
"When true democracy goes away, people get hurt," Obama said. "We take it for granted."
ASU students made the trip to Laveen to see what Obama had to say and to support candidates on the Democratic ticket.
"I've loved Obama ever since I was a little kid and as soon as I heard he was coming here I was absolutely stunned," said Hunter Miller, a freshman studying geography. "I immediately signed up, and so far I'm having a great time. I also came here to hear all the other speakers because I believe that what they're saying is important for Arizonans and our democracy."
Miller said he and other students were "engaged" at the rally and called the speakers "extremely" engaging too.
The candidates were more forceful with their messaging, emphasizing their opponents' denial of the results of the 2020 presidential election and said Republican candidates like Lake, Masters and Finchem, are going to restrict voting and abortion rights in the future.
"Women have lost the right to make their own health care decisions about abortion, so much is at stake in this election," Kelly said.
Obama left the stage with an inspirational message for potential voters as races reach the home stretch.
"The important thing is that we resist the temptation to give up, resist the decision to be cynical and turn inward," Obama said. "When times are tough, there's always been a thread that unites us that is stronger than what divides us."
Election Day is next week on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Early ballots can be dropped off at a voting site drop box or cast in person at any voting place on Election Day.
Edited by Reagan Priest, Piper Hansen and Kristen Apolline Castillo.
Shane Brennan is a politics reporter at State Press. He also works for Cronkite News and Blaze Radio.