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Obama says at Georgia rally "I'm here for one simple reason: To ask you to vote"

Obama holds campaign rally in Georgia
Former President Obama rallies for Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams in Georgia 54:54

Former President Obama is in Georgia Friday evening to rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who is locked in a tight race with Republican Brian Kemp, capping off a day of campaign events for Democrats. Mr. Obama emphasized this election could be the "most important of our lifetime" while also highlighting Abrams.

"I'm hear for one simple reason: To ask you to vote," Mr. Obama said. "The consequences of any of us staying home are profound because America is at a crossroads ... The character of our country is on the ballot."

In an earlier rally on Friday, Mr. Obama had said he doesn't understand why Mr. Trump and his supporters are "so angry all the time." At the Atlanta rally, Mr. Obama accused Republicans of using "constant, incessant, non-stop attempts to divide us. Rhetoric that is designed to make us angry — to make us fearful."

Mr. Obama criticized Republicans — and especially Mr. Trump — for the "scare tactics" in the election.

"Now in the year 2018, they are telling you the biggest threat to America are some impoverished refugees thousands of miles away," Mr. Obama said. "That's not enough to lie about it — they are sending our brave troops ... they are sending them down there for a political stunt when they could be with their families." 

Earlier on Friday, Mr. Obama traveled to Florida to rally for Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, two days after President Trump visited the state to stump for their Republican opponents. Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Obama is engaged in a final campaign swing before the midterm elections. He is campaigning against Mr. Trump's agenda and Republican candidates less than two years after he left office, a departure from a historical norm in which former presidents tend to avoid openly criticizing their successors.

Abrams' campaign has attracted support from prominent celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, who has canvassed and rallied with the candidate. Actor Michael B. Jordan has knocked on doors in Atlanta urging black voters to turn out and actor and comedian Will Ferrell has also canvassed for Abrams' campaign.

Abrams has been largely focused on turning out communities which don't usually turn out in high numbers during midterm elections, such as black voters and young people. If elected, Abrams would be the first black woman elected governor in the country. Mr. Obama is rallying with Abrams at Morehouse College, a widely respected historically black college.

Rep. John Lewis dances to "Happy" at campaign event in Georgia 00:39

The Georgia gubernatorial race has been roiled by claims of voter suppression. As Georgia secretary of state, Kemp oversees election infrastructure, which Democrats say presents a conflict of interest. Kemp's office has suspended processing 53,000 voter registrations, 70 percent of which are for black Georgians. He did so under the auspices of a 2017 state law passed under his urging, which requires an "exact match" between a voter registration form and government documents. If a person's voter registration form differs from government documents — even by a hyphen or a misspelling — their registration form is considered suspect.

While Abrams has claimed Kemp is deliberately trying to suppress the votes of black Georgians, who typically vote Democratic, Kemp argues the issues with registration forms are due to shoddy work by liberal groups such as the Abrams-founded New Georgia Project, which works to register minority voters. However, the 53,000 voters with pending applications can still vote on election day, if they present photo identification at the polls.

On Sunday, President Trump is rallying for Kemp. Vice President Mike Pence stumped for Kemp on Thursday, and criticized the star power Abrams' campaign has attracted.

"I heard Oprah's in town today," Pence said. "I'm kind of a big deal too and I've got a message, I've got a message for all of Stacey Abrams' liberal Hollywood friends. This ain't Hollywood. This is Georgia."

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