U.S. President Donald Trump, left, shakes hands former President Barack Obama during the 58th presidential inauguration in Washington. (Photographer: Pat Benic/Pool via Bloomberg)

Obama Takes on Trump, Diving Into Campaign for Democrats

(Bloomberg) -- Barack Obama this week will begin an aggressive challenge to Donald Trump and his party’s grip on statehouses and Congress, an unusual example of a former president openly working against his successor.

Obama will deliver a high-profile political speech on Friday in Illinois before an appearance Saturday on behalf of Democratic congressional candidates in California. He’ll stump for Ohio gubernatorial hopeful Richard Cordray on Sept. 13, Cordray’s campaign announced Wednesday.

The former president’s presence on the campaign trail raises the stakes in midterm elections that will determine control of Congress and perhaps the future of Trump’s presidency. Trump has promised his own vigorous effort to help Republican candidates, and will travel Thursday and Friday to Montana and the Dakotas to target incumbent Democratic senators in states he won in 2016.

Obama endorsed 81 Democrats running for state and federal offices on Aug. 1, but his speech on Friday at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will be his most visible involvement in the campaign so far. He plans to focus on races that are important for congressional redistricting, helping Democrats take control of the U.S. House and endorsing up-and-coming party candidates, spokeswoman Katie Hill said.

“President Obama hopes to use his standing across the country to help elect Democrats up and down the ballot this fall,’’ Hill said in an email. The former two-term president will make the case that “this moment in our country is too perilous for Democratic voters to sit out,’’ she said.

The White House didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry about Obama’s campaign plans.

In his speech in Illinois on Friday, Obama will call on voters to “reject the rising strain of authoritarian politics and policies” and argue that “the solution to our long-term challenges can be best addressed when we all fully participate in our democracy,” Hill said.

On Saturday, Obama will participate in an Orange County event for California Democratic congressional candidates Josh Harder, TJ Cox, Katie Hill (no relation to his spokeswoman), Gil Cisneros, Katie Porter, Harley Rouda and Mike Levin, according to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Democrats need to gain 23 seats in November to retake control of the House from Republicans.

Obama will headline a rally in Cleveland for Cordray on Sept. 13. The event comes almost three weeks after Trump urged Republicans in the state to defeat the former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director for “destroying people’s lives.’’

Trump was the featured speaker at the Ohio Republican Party’s Aug. 24 state dinner in Columbus, and he railed against Cordray while supporting Attorney General Mike DeWine, the Republican nominee. Governor John Kasich, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, is leaving office because of term limits.

“That was a bad guy,’’ Trump said at the dinner about Cordray’s actions involving community banks. “Oh, were we happy when we got rid of him.’’

Cordray, who resigned from the consumer bureau last November to run for governor and was replaced by Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, has touted his work including enforcement actions against banks and other institutions that he has said secured $12 billion in recoveries for consumers.

Trump also said Cordray was “groomed’’ for the bureau job by Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who helped conceive and set up the CFPB and campaigned for Cordray during the state’s Democratic primary earlier this year.

Obama is also expected to campaign in Illinois and Pennsylvania this month and headline a fundraiser for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee in New York City. Congressional districts will be re-drawn nationwide in 2020 after the decennial Census.

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