Obama returns to campaign trail for Northam in Virginia

Former President Barack Obama will hit the campaign trail for the first time since leaving office next week, campaigning for Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam in the closing weeks of the Virginia governor’s race.

Obama has previously held fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee and the newly launched National Democratic Redistricting Committee led by his friend and former Attorney General Eric Holder. He has also kicked off his own foundation’s efforts in Chicago, and he criticized the GOP’s efforts to repeal his Affordable Care Act during a speech in New York City.

But the Northam event, a rally set for October 19 in Richmond, marks Obama’s first appearance at a public, political campaign event.

It comes less than three weeks ahead of 2017’s marquee election — the November 7 gubernatorial contest between Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie. Several recent polls have shown Northam with a slight lead over Gillespie.

The former president’s tone and approach will be closely watched. Obama has carefully avoided mentioning President Donald Trump’s name since leaving office.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is also hitting the trail for Northam, with plans to campaign for him Saturday in Virginia.

Vice President Mike Pence will campaign with Gillespie Saturday in Abingdon, Virginia.