Barack Obama confronted a heckler who went after him for his remarks on the economy during a rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on Wednesday night.
The former president also used the incident to echo President Joe Biden‘s warning that democracy is on the ballot next week when voters decide which political party will control the House and the Senate.
Obama was arguing Republicans want to reward the wealthy when a heckler gave him grief about his own millionaire status. Barack and Michelle Obama made a mint after they left the White House and made six-figure deals with Netflix and Crown Publishing.
Republicans want ‘an economy that’s very good for folks at the very top, but not always so good for ordinary people,’ Obama was saying when he was interrupted.
‘Like you, Obama!’ a young, male heckler yelled at him.
‘Are you gonna start yelling?’ Obama replied.
The crowd of nearly 1,000 people began to boo loudly in an attempt to drown out the protester.
Barack Obama confronted a heckler who went after him for his remarks on the economy during a rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on Wednesday night
The young, male heckler who interrupted Obama during his remarks
Obama tried to restore calm.
‘Hold up, hold up, everybody,’ Obama said. ‘Hey, young man, just listen for a second. You know you have to be polite and civil when people are talking, then other people are talking and then you get a chance to talk.’
As the crowd continued to roar, Obama told them to ‘settle down. Stay focused.’
He then pivoted to make his main argument – that politics has become too demonized and it’s leading to people getting hurt.
‘This is part of what happens in our politics these days. We get distracted,’ Obama said.
‘You got one person yelling and suddenly everybody’s yelling. You get one tweet that’s stupid and suddenly everybody’s obsessed with the tweet. We can’t fall for that. We have to stay focused,’ he said.
Arizona has become ground zero for election controversies. The 2020 result was repeatedly challenged in the state and two lawsuits already have been filed in federal court on behalf of voters who felt intimidated by the aggressive patrols at ballot drop boxes late last month.
Obama said voters in the state have a choice and the result may mean ‘democracy as we know it may not survive in Arizona.’
‘Democracy as we know it is on the ballot. And nowhere is that clearer than here in Arizona,’ the former president said.
‘If you’ve got election deniers serving as your governor, as your senator, as your secretary of state, as your attorney general, then democracy as we know it may not survive in Arizona,’ Obama said. ‘That’s not an exaggeration. That is a fact.’
He was referring to Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, a former TV actor and election denier. Lake has said she would not have certified the results of the 2020 presidential election. She also has hedged when asked if she would accept the results of her own contest.
Lake and other GOP candidates across the country have been repeating Donald Trump’s ‘Big Lie’ that he was the winner of the 2020 contest and was the victim of voter fraud. Multiple lawsuits and recounts have confirmed Biden’s victory.
Lake is running slightly ahead of Katie Hobbs, the Democratic nominee.
Arizona became a hot bed for political conspiracies in the wake of the last presidential contest.
Biden won the state by less than one point over Trump. Multiple recounts confirmed his victory but election deniers demanded recount after recount – even going as far as looking for bamboo in the paper ballots as they tried to argue foreign powers intefered. No evidence of that was found. Biden’s victory was upheld.
But Trump has handpicked the candidates for top office on the ballot in Arizona this year – governor, senator and secretary of state, which is the office that oversees elections.
Barack Obama (right) campaigned for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs (center) and Democratic Senator Mark Kelly (left)
Barack Obama gets a hug as he works the crowd after his remarks
Projections from Real Clear Politics show the Republicans are projected to win the House and the Senate next Tuesday
Obama on Wednesday was also campaigning for Democratic Senator Mark Kelly, who is battling Republican Blake Masters.
Masters also has denied the results of the 2020 election. State Rep. Mark Finchem, who is running for secretary of state, is famous in election conspiracy circles. If he wins, he will oversee the 2024 contest in the state.
Obama specifically targeted Lake, who is close to Trump. Some Democrats fear she could be his running mate if he makes a 2024 bid – or could run for president herself.
Obama charged that Lake was running ‘to be Donald Trump’s best friend.’
‘She’s good in front of the camera because she’s been doing it for a long time,’ Obama said of Lake.
He noted she interviewed him in 2016, when she was a local TV anchor and he was running for president.
‘I have to admit, I don’t have a clear memory of the interview, it’s a little fuzzy,’ he said.
But, he added: ‘If we hadn’t just elected somebody whose main qualification was being on TV, you could see maybe giving it a shot. What’s the worst that could happen? Well now we know! It doesn’t just work out just because somebody’s been on TV.’
‘It turns out being president or governor is about more than snappy lines and good lighting,’ he said.
Democrats have been pushing the November 8th election as a choice between democracy and autocracy even as voters say the economy and the high cost of living are their top concerns.
Republicans are favored to win the House in next week’s election. The Senate is seen as up for grabs.
Barack Obama criticized Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who has said she would not have certified the 2020 election results
Arizona Senator Mark Kelly with his wife Gabby Giffords
Biden on Wednesday night, in a speech warning of threats to democracy, warned that ‘dark forces with a thirst for power’ could prevail in next week’s midterms.
Crime is also another concern, voters say.
Both Biden and Obama cited last week’s attack on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband in their speeches.
Paul Pelosi is in the hospital after being beaten with a hammer by a man who broke into their San Francisco home looking for the speaker. She was in Washington D.C. at the time.
Obama said he’s spoken to Paul. ‘Thankfully I spoke to Paul a couple of days ago and he’s gonna be okay,’ he said.