Trump close to winning, Obama warns – Politico
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Barack Obama went into the final stretch of the 2016 campaign warning that Donald Trump is within range of winning, urging voters — particularly black voters, whose turnout is lagging — to see the Republican nominee as running an un-American, inhumane, racist campaign that must be stopped.
“This should not be a close race, but it’s going to be a close race. It’s going to be especially close here in North Carolina,” Obama said.
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A moment later, he offered some explanation for the tightness: “The fact that he has gotten this far tells me the degree to which our politics has become like a bad reality TV show.”
But the White House has struggled to explain Trump’s strength, which has increased in the final days of the race despite the White House’s warnings of “extreme risks,” Trump’s backing by white nationalists and the anger that’s led to calls of “execute her” about Hillary Clinton.
Asked earlier Friday aboard Air Force One en route to North Carolina what the president makes of a country that has not more clearly rejected Trump, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Trump’s rhetoric has been disturbing, but said he’d wait to see Tuesday’s results before speaking to why or how much that rhetoric has resonated. Trump has been “playing on anxieties, economic and otherwise of a large swath of the American electorate,” Earnest said.
Obama didn’t have more of an answer, standing here in a state Clinton’s campaign is hoping will go back blue in her battle to get to 270 electoral votes.
“Imagine if I’d behaved in the way this man has. Imagine what Republicans would have said. Imagine what the press would have said. But now we act like I guess this is normal,” the president said as the deafening crowd here of 8,500 erupted into “No!” “As if it’s some parody — you can’t tell the difference between “Saturday Night Live” and what’s actually happening in the news. And then you hear people who are voting for him justify it.”
There is no justification, he said earlier in Fayetteville, N.C., adding that it’s been “a source of some frustration” to see Clinton, with her record of working for children and families, be put in any kind of parity with Trump.
And Trump would only get worse if he made it to the Oval Office, Obama said.
“If you disrespect women before you were in office, then you will disrespect them once you’re in office. If you accept the support of Klan sympathizers, if you don’t denounce them right away because you’re not sure, then that’s what you’re going to do in office,” Obama said. Same goes for not paying attention to the Constitution during the campaign, Obama said. “Not only will you disrespect it when you’re president, but you actually may be willing to violate it when you’re in office.”
The case against Trump, Obama said is “not a Democrat or Republican — that’s not American.”
He added a few minutes later, “We’re not Democrats or Republicans first. We’re children of God first. We’re human beings first.”
Obama described the successes of his record — taking special glee at both North Carolina stops in pointing out that gas is at $2 per gallon, not the $6 per gallon that Republicans had predicted if he won, adding “Thanks, Obama!” in Charlotte — and said electing Clinton would be finishing what he started.
“Don’t choose fear. Choose hope,” Obama said in Fayetteville, offering his closing argument for the final days of the campaign that’s a summoning of his own 2008 campaign and a rejection of Trump. “Don’t choose fear. Choose hope.”
More than just Clinton, Obama said, North Carolina needs to make sure to vote for down-ballot candidates, since Republicans in Congress could destroy Clinton’s presidency even if she wins.
“Gridlock’s not some mysterious fog that just drops down on Washington,” Obama said.
In a mixture of anger and disbelief, he noted that Republicans are already talking about impeaching Clinton.
“They can’t even tell you what they’re going to impeach her for — that’s just what we do, that’s how we roll,” he said. “We don’t know what we stand for, but we do know if we block everything from happening, even if it disadvantages the American people, because it might advantage them in the next election.”
The crowd at Fayetteville State University gymnasium was heavily African-American — before he arrived, Democratic Senate candidate Deborah Ross drew cheers for pointing out that her opponent, Sen. Richard Burr, had specifically opposed two black judges from being confirmed — and Obama spoke directly to them.
Trump says he’s going to send poll watchers to monitor activity in “certain areas,” Obama said, explaining slyly, “I don’t know what certain areas he’s talking about, but you do.”
The Clinton campaign is on alert about lagging African-American turnout, and Obama said that in a state with a history of Jim Crow and more recent battles over voting rights restrictions, there is a special responsibility to show up at the polls and speak out.
Think about the 100-year old North Carolina woman who’d been kicked off the voter rolls, he said, and recounted her fight to get herself reinstated in a letter that the president read to the crowd.
“It’s bad enough she was disrespected. Are we now also going to respect her because we’re not voting?” Obama said.
Obama singled out a Trump supporter who stood up to start waving a sign toward the beginning of his speech, urging the crowd to see the man as the kind of distraction that’s weighed down the campaign all along, unsuccessfully trying to quiet an enthusiastic crowd that started chanting “Hillary!”
“If you just focus, if you just think about it, the choice could not be simpler, the choice could not be clearer. There is a reason that so many Republicans, so many conservatives, have denounced the nominee of their party,” Obama said. “You’ve never seen a situation in which folks are denouncing the person who’s nominated as the leader of their party. And it’s because Donald Trump is uniquely unqualified.”
Earlier, speaking to the overflow crowd outside the gym, Obama recalled that he only won North Carolina in 2008 by about 2 votes per precinct (Mitt Romney narrowly turned the state back red in 2012). Everyone there needs to vote, he said, and every one of them needs to “nag the heck” out of everyone else they know to vote, too.
Monday night, Clinton will end her campaign with a rally in Philadelphia, framed by the president and first lady Michelle Obama, leaving no question at all of how much the campaign is leaning on the Obamas to propel her into office, particularly among African-Americans. Obama laid into that sense here, talking about how much the support of North Carolina has meant to him and the first lady over the years, and to their daughters Malia and Sasha as well.
“If you deliver North Carolina for me,” Obama said, “that is the best send-off you can give me and Michelle.”
The crowd cheered. Obama took it in.
“It’s not that often where you have the chance to move history,” he said. “This is one of those moments. Right now you can reject mean spirited politics that would take us back. Right now you can elect a leader who spent her entire life trying to move this country forward. Our first female president. You have a chance to move history.”