Obama on the stump in Florida: 'They're coming after your health care'

David Knowles

Former President Barack Obama hit the campaign trail in Miami Friday in support of Democrats Bill Nelson and Andrew Gillum and delivered a speech aimed squarely at Donald Trump without ever mentioning his name.

Introduced by Gillum, the party’s gubernatorial candidate, as “our forever president,” Obama blasted the president and the Republicans supporting him as attempting “to scare folks with whatever boogey man or divisive social issues they can come up with” in the campaign.

“They promised to take on corruption,” Obama said of the Trump administration, “and instead they have racked up enough indictments to field a football team.”

At the start of his speech, Obama was interrupted repeatedly by roughly a half-dozen hecklers.

“This is what I look forward to, is a few hecklers, to get me back in the mood,” Obama said, adding, ““Here’s the deal, if you support the other candidates, then you should go support the other candidates.”

Much of Obama’s remarks were focused on health care and what he views as Republican efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act, his biggest legislative accomplishment. “The health care for millions is on the ballot,” Obama said, before calling out Trump and the GOP over recent promises to protect health coverage for preexisting conditions, one of Obamacare’s signature provisions.

Barack Obama with Andrew Gillum, left, and Bill Nelson in Miami on Friday. (Photo: Joe Skipper/Reuters)
Barack Obama with Andrew Gillum, left, and Bill Nelson in Miami on Friday. (Photo: Joe Skipper/Reuters)

“That law made it illegal for the first time for insurers to discriminate against folks who had a preexisting condition,” Obama said.

Turning his fire on Republican Ron DeSantis, who faces Gillum in the governor’s race, and Gov. Rick Scott who is attempting to replace Nelson in the Senate, Obama decried what he said was GOP hypocrisy on health care.

“Now, suddenly it’s election season, and what happens? You’ve got Republicans out there saying ‘Oh, well, we will protect preexisting conditions. Trust us.’ Let’s look at the record,” Obama said. “Andrew’s opponent was in Congress and voted to sabotage or repeal the ACA and protections for preexisting conditions every chance he got. Bill’s opponent, Rick Scott… is literally suing the government to overturn preexisting condition protections as we speak.”

At rallies in Florida and Missouri this week, Trump has sought to position himself and his party as guardians of protections for coverage of preexisting conditions, belying their efforts to weaken Obamacare to the point of failure.

Obama reminded his crowd that Republicans had come up one vote short of repealing the ACA altogether, and again warned about the stakes of the midterms.

“If they get control of Congress, you’d better believe they’re coming after your health care,” Obama said, as his voice began to falter toward the end of his 45-minute speech.

On the Republican messaging on health care ahead of the midterms, Obama said, “Let’s call it what it is. It’s a lie. They’re lying to you.”

Obama called on Republicans who could see through the president’s political rhetoric to vote for Nelson and Gillum.

“I’m assuming they understand that a president doesn’t get to decide who is an American citizen and who’s not,” Obama said in reference to Trump’s plan to overturn birthright citizenship.

At his own rally in Huntington, W.Va., Friday afternoon, Trump said he watched Obama’s speech in Florida.

“I heard him talk about telling the truth. He was talking about you’ve got to tell the truth, and yet 28 times he said, ‘You can keep your doctor if you like your doctor. You can keep your plan if you like your plan.’ They were all lies,” Trump said before boasting of “decimating” the Affordable Care Act “strike by strike.”

The president made no mention of coverage for people with preexisting conditions.

Despite the interruptions of hecklers, Obama’s message resounded with the thousands who had come to see him.

“If you don’t like what’s going on right now, don’t just complain,” Obama said in summary, adding, “Vote!”

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