Students, locals, and Clinton campaign supporters packed the Capital Center on Tuesday, Nov. 1, to hear President Barack Obama speak to the importance of voting in this divisive election.
“If you love this country, you cannot be cynical,” he said. “All the progress we’ve made goes out the window if we don’t do our jobs in the next seven days … Choose the progress that we can keep on making in the next four years.”
Prior to the president’s arrival, a host of local Democrats spoke, including former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, Columbus City Council President Zach Klein, and Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler. Each praised Clinton as the right choice in this election.
President Obama was introduced by Congresswoman Joyce Beatty from Ohio’s third congressional district. The president took the stage at 5:35 p.m. before a roaring crowd of a few thousand who had been waiting for hours.
A collection of Clinton campaign staffers and supporters lined two sets of bleachers behind the stage, waving campaign signs that read “USA,” “Stronger Together,” and “Clinton Kaine,” and shouted phrases such as “Hillary, Hillary, Hillary,” “Yes we can,” and “Fired up, ready to vote.”
The President’s remarks began light, referencing the 2016 World Series, and a related Taco Bell event. “If you can find the time to get a free taco, then you can find the time to vote,” he said.
Quickly he moved to discuss the specifics of this election. He spoke of his own record over the last eight years and praised his former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as his natural successor because she shares the same vision of “freedom for not just a few, but for everybody.”
He criticized Clinton’s Republican opponent Donald Trump for his un-presidential behavior: his treatment of women, minorities and disabled persons. He said that these characteristics are a part of who Trump is, and he cannot simply become more presidential.
“Who you are, what you are, does not change once you occupy the Oval Office,” he said. “The only thing this office does is it amplifies who you are. It magnifies who you are. It shows who you are … If you disrespected women before you were elected, you will disrespect women once you’re president.”
He rejected the widespread equivocation between the two presidential candidates.
“Things are so polarizing that people talk themselves into thinking [Trump]’s not so bad,” he said. “The notion that it is somehow hard to choose, well it shouldn’t be … [Clinton] is so much more qualified … If you are a working person, the notion that [Trump] is going to fight for you … that this guy is going to be your champion … don’t be bamboozled.”
While he did not bring up the recent request from FBI director James Comey to reopen the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server, he did address criticisms of her more generally.
“Has she made mistakes? Of course. So have I. There’s nobody in the public arena over the course of 30 years who doesn’t make some. She is a fundamentally good and decent person who knows what she’s doing and will be an outstanding president.”
He went even further, saying that Clinton is “consistently treated differently than just about any other candidate I see out there.”
He equated the difference in treatment with societies willingness to accept a man as ambitious while disapproving of a woman for the same actions.
The president also spoke about the U.S. senate race between Ted Strickland and Rob Portman, echoing Strickland’s earlier remarks criticizing Portman for his refusal to denounce Trump.
Throughout some 40 minutes of speech, the president continuously connected his remarks back to the message of voting. He said that most important office in the country is not president, congressman, or mayor; it is citizen. When the crowd booed an audience member for wearing a Trump campaign hat, he said, “don’t boo, vote.”
President Obama’s visit to campus was organized by Hillary for America and is part of his larger effort to campaign for the Democratic nominee. His Columbus stop coming so close to election day may hint at worries within Clinton’s campaign.
According to the Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday, Nov. 2, Trump has a 5-point lead in Ohio, leading Clinton 46 percent to 41 percent. The two candidates were tied at 45 percent in the last iteration of the poll released Oct. 17.
While this election has been unusual in that both major parties have nominated presidential candidates who are so disliked and distrusted, it will likely still come down to who can win Ohio and the handful of other traditional battleground states.
The rigor with which President Obama has campaigned for Clinton and other Democrats in this election is unusual of a lame-duck president, but will likely continue right up to election day. The outcome of this election will undoubtedly affect Obama’s own legacy as he leaves the Oval Office in less than 80 days.
This story was updated Nov. 3 at 2:40 a.m.