On the eve of the election, Obama touts his legacy in campaign stop for Clinton

Monday, November 7, 2016 - 4:39pm

During President Barack Obama’s visit to the University of Michigan Monday — one day before Election Day — the president aimed to use his legacy to sway students and other state residents to turn out for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Clinton currently holds a five-point lead over Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in Michigan, whom Obama said has an “unfit” temperament for office.
An estimated 9,000 people, including many Michigan politicians, attended the event at the Ray L. Fisher Stadium. Students and local residents began lining up in the early hours of the morning to secure a seat to see the president.
For LSA senior Andrew Davis, seeing the president was a once in a lifetime experience.

“It was absolutely worth it,” Davis said. “We got here at, like, 7 a.m., stood in line. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life.”

Audience members erupted into cheers as Obama took the stage. After addressing the crowd with an enthusiastic “Go Blue,” he echoed the sentiments of Chelsea Clinton, who introduced him, emphasizing the importance of voting and describing the election as one that hinges on moral values. The reputation of the United States in the eyes of the world, he told the crowd, rests on this election.

For the majority of his speech, Obama highlighted what he described as his progressive legacy — one he said he hopes will be continued with a Clinton victory on Tuesday.

“But tomorrow, tomorrow you will choose whether we continue this journey of progress, or whether it all goes out the window,” Obama said. “Tomorrow, you get to choose between politics of blame and divisiveness and resentment — or you can choose a politics that says we’re all stronger together.”

Focusing on Michigan, Obama also reminded the audience of his work as president following the 2008 recession, including his work to revive the state’s auto industry and lower the unemployment rate in the state. He also highlighted his commitment to fighting climate change and his administration’s role in killing Osama Bin Laden.

Clinton, he told the crowd, has specific plans to continue moving the country forward on issues like those.

“She’s got plans to grow manufacturing, plans to boost people’s wages, plans to help students with their college debt,” Obama said. “Specific plans — not vague plans, not imaginary plans. She knows how to do it. And that’s why she needs to be the next president of the United States — as long as you vote.”

LSA sophomore Martin Hubbard said Obama’s résumé helped convince him as a voter that Clinton is the right choice for president.

“Obama endorsing Clinton influenced my decision to vote for her,” he said. “Him being the president of the United States, he has a lot of say, experience and credibility. He’s been the president of this country for eight years and there is no one else more qualified to say who he thinks should be president.”

Obama also took aim at Republican nominee Donald Trump directly, listing reasons Trump is unfit to be president.

“Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit to be commander-in-chief,” Obama said. “Over the weekend, his campaign took away his Twitter account. If your closest advisers don’t trust you to tweet, then how can we trust him with the nuclear codes?”

Several politicians and candidates also spoke during the event on the importance of the youth vote, including Larry Deitch (D) and Denise Ilitch (D), candidates for the University’s Board of Regents, as well as Reps. Debbie Dingell (D–Mich.), Brenda Lawrence (D–Mich.), Sandy Levin (D–Mich.) and Sen. Gary Peters (D–Mich.).

Before Obama spoke, Chelsea Clinton told the crowd this election was not just a choice of politics but a choice between two different sets of values.

“There is a world of a difference between what my mother stands for and what her opponent does,” Clinton said. “We have a chance to prove that ‘stronger together’ is who we are. It is what my mother has defined her life by.”

During the last half of his speech, Obama echoed that sentiment, asking the audience to imagine what a Trump presidency would look like given his actions on the campaign trail — particularly toward women and minorities.

“Donald Trump is uniquely unqualified to hold this job,” Obama said. “But the good news, Michigan, is you are uniquely qualified to make sure he does not get the job. And the good news is, you don’t just have to vote against something — you actually have a candidate who’s worthy of your vote.”

Obama’s visit was one of multiple campaign stops from both Clinton and Trump in the state over the past few days, a potential sign that Michigan will be more competitive this year than in years past. In addition to the president, Clinton herself will visit Grand Rapids tonight and former President Bill Clinton campaigned in Lansing Sunday night. Trump visited Sterling Heights Sunday and Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence visited Lansing on Friday. A Republican has not won the state since 1988.

In his remarks, Obama noted the expectation that Michigan would be close in the election, repeating his call to vote.

“But, Michigan, all that progress goes down the drain if we don’t win tomorrow,” Obama said. “This race will be close here in Michigan, just like it will be in a lot of parts of the country.”

LSA senior Lauren Gallagher, president of Students for Hillary, wrote in an email interview that she thinks Obama’s visit signifies the importance of the youth vote. He is one of several campaign surrogates to talk on campus in the past few months, including Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), the Democratic vice presidential nominee, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

We've seen in past elections how powerful the student voice can be,” Gallagher wrote. “Big name surrogate visits to our campus is the campaign sending a message that our voices matter, that the decision about what direction this country is headed in is up to us. It's my hope that students don't take this lightly and turn out tomorrow, it’s our futures that are on the line right now.”

LSA junior Casey Martel said attending the rally was a memory she will never forget.

“The rally was great,” she said. “It reminded me of why I am voting for Clinton. It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience to hear a sitting president speak — and the day before an election.”