Obama Stumps for Clinton in Philadelphia

     PHILADELPHIA (CN) — President Barack Obama delivered an impassioned campaign speech for Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, lauding his former secretary of state’s political experience and decrying Donald Trump as unfit for the presidency.
     Only a few miles from the site where Clinton was officially crowned the Democratic presidential nominee in July, Obama told a cheering crowd that Clinton “has more qualifications than pretty much anyone who’s ever run for this job.”
     Standing on a podium outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Obama urged voters to allow Clinton to pick up where he left off in bolstering the economy, slashing poverty and unemployment rates, and bringing soldiers home from overseas.
     “America is stronger and more prosperous than when we started out on this path…[but] we know we’ve got more work to do,” the president said.
     Only one candidate in the race is up to the task, he said, telling a delighted crowd that he is “really, really into” seeing Clinton elected president, and that his job is not truly done until she arrives at the White House.
     Obama offered rave reviews of Clinton’s four-year tenure as his secretary of state, painting a picture of a fierce but cool-headed patriot who “never forgot what she was fighting for.” He highlighted her foreign policy know-how and grace under pressure in sensitive situations, like the 2011 capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, telling a rapt audience that her experience had given her skills that can’t be taught.
     “In the middle of a crisis, she’ll listen to people and she’ll keep her cool,” Obama said. “No matter how daunting the odds, and no matter how many times people knock her down, I know she won’t quit.”
     The president’s first solo campaign appearance on Clinton’s behalf came at a fortuitous time. The former New York senator has herself made sparse public appearances since being escorted by her aides from a 9/11 event on Sunday after she reportedly stumbled while walking.
     Clinton’s spokespeople have since said that she has pneumonia and has been advised to rest as she recovers. Her illness played right into the hands of Trump’s campaign, which has said the 68-year-old Clinton concealed her pneumonia diagnosis. Last month, Trump called for her to release detailed medical records.
     While Obama didn’t directly mention Clinton’s pneumonia or the Trump campaign’s comments on her health, he did “vent” at the GOP nominee’s suggestion that the Clinton campaign lacked transparency.
     The much-maligned Clinton Foundation has “saved children around the world” while Trump “took money people gave to his charity and then bought a six-foot painting of himself,” Obama said, adding that the businessman and TV star-turned-politician also still has yet to release his tax returns.
     “We cannot afford to treat this like a reality show,” Obama said amid applause.
     A deafening chorus of boos rained down when the president drew inevitable comparisons between Clinton’s character and that of Trump.
     “Don’t boo! Booing is easy; I need you to vote,” Obama exclaimed in response to the crowd’s fervor.
     Though the president had been upbeat as he discussed Clinton’s ability to continue what he started during his two terms, his tone turned grave as he tore into the fear-mongering and division that he said have been a hallmark of Trump’s campaign.
     “He’s betting that if he scares enough people, he just might scare up enough votes to win this election,” Obama said.
     Obama called the election “a fundamental choice about who we are as a people,” cautioning voters in the battleground state of Pennsylvania that a Trump win would only serve to undercut values of unity, democracy and progress.
     “What we’ve seen from the other side in this election, this isn’t Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party. This isn’t even Ronald Reagan’s vision of freedom,” the president said, scoffing at the idea that Trump was the everyman representative of the working class.
     “We can’t vote for people who see immigrants as criminals and rapists…We need [someone who] understands that the American dream is not something a wall can contain,” he continued to raucous cheers.      
     “[Clinton] knows that love trumps hate,” Obama said, referencing what has become a popular slogan among Clinton supporters and was in fact seen on many T-shirts being sold in the blocks surrounding the event site.
     Thousands of Philadelphians turned out in force to see what Obama himself admitted could be among his last few appearances as president in the area.
     One speech attendee, Ouida Simpson, described the president’s appearance as “bittersweet.” While she found his words “inspiring and very motivational,” she also felt “a bit emotional” seeing him prepare to leave office after she’d spent the past eight years as “a strong member of the Obama coalition.”
     Simpson felt confident that the presidency would be left in good hands with Clinton, though.
     “[Clinton] is the right person to take over and continue his progress,” she said. “Her vision and values are aligned with his…it’s important not to take a step backwards.”
     Back on the podium outside the Art Museum, just yards away from where movie character Rocky famously ran up an interminable set of steps to train for his prize fight, Obama evoked similar notions of Clinton’s determination and forward progress.
     “Democracy is not a spectator sport,” he said. “Hillary’s going to run that race, and she’s going to finish that race. I need you to fight as hard for her as you did for me.”
     
     Top photo credit: Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press.
     
     Bottom photo caption: Danasia Rowley (left) and Mikeal Jones, students at Girard College boarding school who attended Obama’s speech Tuesday. Photo by Gina Carrano.

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