Former President Barack Obama is heading back to the campaign trail, holding rallies for Democrats in Virginia and New Jersey.
The two states hold gubernatorial elections in November. In Virginia, current Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam is neck and neck with his Republican opponent. New Jersey's Democratic candidate Phil Murphy seems to have a comfortable lead, according to The New York Times.
The two elections have gained increased importance for Democrats in the wake of the party's 2016 electoral embarrassment. Not only are Republicans in charge of the White House and Congress, they also control a majority of state governments.
Although it's not surprising that Obama would campaign in these crucial state elections, his return to politics is still coming "pretty quickly," historian Julian Zelizer told The Associated Press.
"The current president has changed all the conventional assumptions about what to do," he said. "There is a sense of urgency that makes this moment different than others and former President Obama has continued to be directly in [President Donald] Trump's line of fire -- both his policies and his legacy."
Results from the Virginia and New Jersey races may also serve as a preview of turnout for the 2018 midterm elections.
"If the party doesn't change what they're doing, we're not going to take back the House, we'll lose seats in the Senate and folks will come around after and say, 'What happened?'" Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus told The New York Times. "We are doing a pathetic job of reaching out to minority voters."
Part of the reason Obama is hitting the trail for Northam and Murphy is to encourage turnout among black voters.
One black voter told the AP that she missed Obama "tremendously" and has been sad since Trump was inaugurated.
"I think Obama will bring some light to the end of the tunnel," Nancy Jackson said, waiting in line for a ticket to Northam's Oct. 19 rally with Obama.
Although Obama still attracts black voters, his mere presence may not be enough to ensure their turnout.
In the final days of the 2016 campaign, Obama campaigned hard for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, touting her qualifications and attacking Trump. The New York Times reports that black voter turnout still fell in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, three crucial states that helped deliver Trump the presidency.
While voters like Jackson may be motivated by their dislike of Trump, those feelings may not be enough to motivate voters when Trump isn't personally on the ballot.