Obama urges voter action, denounces Trump

President Barack Obama speaks to supporters of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio, on Friday, Oct. 14, 2016.

Alex Delaney-Gesing

As the early-morning frost melted away at Cleveland’s Burke Lakefront Airport Friday, thousands gathered to hear President Barack Obama speak on behalf of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

With less than a month until the Nov. 8 General Election, Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump are on the last sprint of the campaign trail.

As both nominees face media scrutiny for differing reasons — Trump for last week’s leaked “locker room talk” video and subsequent denial of the numerous sexual assault accusations, and Clinton with her ongoing email scandal backlash — they’ve blitzed in and out of key battleground states like Ohio in the last month, choosing instead to garner support in other states that may help boost electoral votes. 

While the nominees take their campaigns around the country, others have stepped into the buckeye state to remind voters that the swing state’s significance in the election hasn’t been forgotten.

An Oct. 11 Baldwin Wallace University match-up poll has Clinton leading Trump in Ohio approval ratings, 44-38 points, with a 3-point margin of error. Fourteen percent of polled voters reported being unsure of whom they’ll cast their ballot for next month.

The latest Ohio stumper, Obama, spent Thursday evening in Columbus at an Ohio Democratic Party fundraising dinner — where he called the Republican nominee and party a “swamp of crazy.”

In Cleveland, he rallied Ohioans to vote for Clinton next month.

Attendees clad in hats and jackets waved “Stronger Together” and “I’m with her” campaign slogan signs around the speaking podium. Signs spelling out “Ohio,” “Vote” and “Stronger Together” rested above and around voters sitting in bleacher seats, urging them to take action during the dwindling days of the election season.

In long sleeves and jeans, Baldwin Wallace University juniors Rachel Gante and Kayley Gallagher moved from foot to foot to keep warm in the October morning chill 

Gante and Gallagher originally supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the primary season. They switched their support to Clinton when the junior senator lost, however, because “she’s fighting for the things that can help us,” Gallagher said. “The things we need right now.”

“The future of human rights in this country is in danger,” she said. “We’ve come so far in getting equality for all, and I think Trump’s just going to ruin it.”

With the surfacing of Trump’s derogatory reference to women, Gante said the fact that he is still allowed to run for the presidency is “downright disgusting.”

“It’s just appalling that somebody who could potentially run our country has such disrespect for women and other minorities he believes are beneath him,” she said 

Obama — along with first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden — have struck out across the U.S.l over the last month to tout their approval for the former secretary of state, and condemn Trump’s qualifications to be commander-in-chief.

Obama kicked off his speech by referencing — and thanking — the city of Cleveland for their support during his campaign for re-election four years ago.

“I remember when we were campaigning here. I told you then … that I wasn’t a perfect person, that I wasn’t going to be a perfect president,” he said. “But what I guaranteed you was … I would work every single day, as hard as I could, to make sure that working families all across this country got a better deal.

“We have fought our way back from recession, we have helped our auto industry set new records, we have turned job losses into 15 million new jobs, we slashed our dependence on foreign oil.”

Obama referenced strides made in the country during his administration:  a 50 percent reduction in unemployment, the rise of incomes — stating that last year saw the largest increase the nation has ever seen — the decline in poverty, access to affordable health insurance for 20 million Americans, justice to Osama Bin Laden, and the reality of marriage equality in all states.

“By almost every measure, our economy is better than it was when we came into office,” he said.

Despite interruptions from protesters — to which he said, “If you’re confident about the other guy, just go to his rallies,” before they were escorted out of the rally area by security — Obama made his stump for Clinton and strong opposition to Trump loud and clear.

“All that progress goes out the window if we don’t make the right choice, right now. And it shouldn’t be a hard choice,” he said over the cheers and “Hillary” chants echoing throughout the crowds.

Obama condemned the Republican nominee for his lewd comments of women, and used the first lady’s Thursday speech in New Hampshire — where she criticized Trump for his sexual assault remarks on women — as a point to keep in mind:

“Yes, she was sticking up for women, (and) yes, she was thinking about the lessons we’re teaching the next generation,” he said. “ (But) she was also talking on behalf of men who know we’re better than this or who don’t want to teach (their) sons the kinds of things we’ve been hearing on television; That the measure of any society is how you treat women, (and whether) you’re treating them with respect, dignity and equality.”

A person doesn’t have to be a husband or a father to know that that kind of language and those kinds of actions are unacceptable, Obama said. “You just have to be a decent human being.” 

He recognized the need for a democracy’s political parties to have their differences, but that the differences between this election’s candidates are far from acceptable.

“When I was running against Sen. John McCain and Gov. Mitt Romney, we had serious debates about economic policy, foreign policy. Those elections were close,” Obama said. “(While) I thought I had the better argument and would be the better president … I could have seen either one of them serving honorably, not embarrassing us on the world stage.” 

The Republican Party was the subject of criticism from the president for its apparent tolerance of Trump throughout the election season. For GOP politicians choosing to withdraw their support for the nominee, he asked what held them back from doing so in the past.

“They stood by and didn’t say anything because it was a way to rile up their base and mount up opposition to what we do. And, over time, they started to believe it,” Obama said. “And that’s what allowed Donald Trump to suddenly emerge.”

“While the GOP calls themselves the ‘party of family values,’ “ he said, “What, you weren’t appalled earlier when he was saying degrading things about women, (or) when he was judging them based on a score of whether they were a two or a 10? That wasn’t enough?”

To those politicians still upholding their support for Trump, Obama asked them: “(How can) you say you’re about the Constitution, but you’re okay with a guy who says to his opponent in the middle of a debate, ‘I’m going to throw you in jail.’ How does it work? It doesn’t work.” 

Clinton, Obama said, stands for the nation’s values — ones that aren’t exhibited in Trump’s plan for the future.

“In a democracy as big as ours, we can’t demonize each other. We can’t refuse to compromise; We have to work (over party lines),” he said.  “We should conduct ourselves with what this country is about, a sense of decency.”

Voters this election have the chance to “reject a dark and pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other … a politics of fear, blame, anger and hate,” Obama said.

Rachel Gante agreed with the president, saying that under a Clinton administration, the country can continue to make progress by uniting.

“She’s promoting that we are together, not separated by race or gender,” she said. “We’ve come so far in just accepting one another over the years.

Regardless of the issues being discussed, or whether an individual “felt the Bern” in the primary season, “you need to vote,” Obama said.

“You can vote for somebody who only cares about themselves, or somebody who’s going to fight like heck for working people,” Obama said. “If we want progress, we’ve got to work for it. It doesn’t always come right away. But if we keep after it, decade after decade, it happens.”

Alex Delaney-Gesing is a senior reporter, contact her at [email protected].