PHILADELPHIA Silencing the vast Philadelphia crowd with his final campaign trail address as president, Barack Obama framed Hillary Clinton as a guardian of his legacy as the clock ticked down on her long, turbulent ride to the White House.
”With just one more day to go, we now have the chance to elect a 45th president who will build on our progress, who will finish the job, who already has the respect of leaders around the world and the people they serve,” said the nostalgic-sounding Obama, speaking across the way from Independence Hall in front of 33,000 supporters, the applause rippling through the Clinton campaign’s largest crowd as it took seconds to reach the stage.
“I’ll be honest, I’ve had to bite my tongue after hearing some of the things people have said about Hillary Clinton,” he continued, bringing a historic sweep to the closing seconds of his impassioned address. “I am betting that tomorrow that you will reject fear and choose hope.”
It was the emotional apex of a campaign that knows it simply needs to win Pennsylvania a state where it leads in order to force Donald Trump to win nearly every single other battleground state to win. And it came before Clinton herself took the stage, following her daughter, Chelsea, her husband, former President Bill Clinton, first lady Michelle Obama, and the man she hopes to succeed in the White House pausing for the opportunity, as she walked out, to grab the photo-op that her team hopes leads newspapers across the country on Election Day: her embrace of Obama, with the presidential seal on the podium behind them.
“There is a clear choice in this election. A choice between division or unity. Between an economy that works for everyone or only those at the top. Between strong, steady leadership or a loose cannon who could put everything at risk,” Clinton said as Trump stumped in Manchester, New Hampshire, reading a letter he got from New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick amid a wild sprint around the country from blue state to purple state in pursuit of a slim path to 270 electoral votes. “So make no mistake, our core values are being tested in this election. We know enough about my opponent we know who he is. The real question for us is what kind of country we want to be and what kind of future we want to build for our children.”
Bringing the evening to a somber point by telling the story of Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim soldier who was killed in Iraq after an evening that began with performances from Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen Clinton brought the crowd to a standstill by invoking the man who was launched to prominence on a convention stage across town over the summer.
“Think about how throughout our history, generations of people just like us have come together to meet the tests of their time. And yes, as President Obama said, it started right here in Philadelphia, when representatives from 13 unruly colonies came together to launch the greatest experiment the world has ever seen,” she said.
“It is not just my name or Donald Trump’s name on the ballot tomorrow. Every issue is at stake.”
The crowd’s fervor, built up dramatically by the time Clinton took the stage, was stoked by Michelle Obama just moments earlier, who spoke after Bill Clinton barely took four minutes of microphone time.
The first lady, by far the Democrats’ most effective surrogate as she emerged as a no-longer-reluctant political hero for Clinton, delivered a forceful defense.
“When the going gets tough, Hillary is the person we want on our side, because she never gives up, she never quits, she refuses to never be knocked down, pushed around, or counted out,” she said, culminating her 2016 season by refusing to say Trump’s name even once. “Speaking tonight is perhaps the last and most important thing I can do for my country as first lady.”
Obamas combine forces with the Clintons to fend off Trump
An excerpt of Hillary Clinton’s rally on Monday.
Trump appeared, however, in the president’s and presidential hopeful’s speeches. They savaged the very idea of him, bruised after an unexpectedly tight race that left the country just as battered.
“If his closest advisers don’t want him to tweet,” said an exasperated Obama, “why should we trust him with the nuclear codes?”
Yet the evening was, in a brutal year of negatives that Clinton said she wished were more positive, about insisting an affirmative action exists.
“Philadelphia, you’ve got someone outstanding to vote for in Hillary Clinton,” the president said, as a bell tolled nine times from a nearby tower.
And then Clinton was off, back into the night for yet another rally, and yet more musicians.
The slog-turned-glide-path-turned-slow ascension rolls on, for at least a little longer.