CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama made their first joint appearance of the 2016 campaign season Tuesday at a raucous campaign rally where Obama said he was “ready to pass the baton” to Clinton.
Surrounded by banners that read “Stronger Together,” Obama told hundreds of supporters at the Charlotte Convention Center that Clinton, his former secretary of state, was the most qualified to serve in the Oval Office. He recounted their journey from presidential campaign rivals in 2008 to political allies.
“There has never been a man or woman more qualified for this office than Hillary Clinton,” Obama said in a speech that highlighted Clinton’s experience as First Lady, as a U.S. senator from New York and her five years running the State Department.
Obama said Clinton’s mettle to serve as president “has been tested.” He said Clinton has “seen up close what’s involved” in making high level decisions, recalling her “arguing in favor” of the mission to kill Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.
Clinton said she would fight for “the vision of America that President Obama has always championed … a vision where we do things together, not as red states and blue states” but as the United States.
The side-by-side appearance came hours after FBI Director James Comey announced the agency would not recommend criminal charges against Clinton for her use of a private email server as secretary of state.
Clinton and Obama, who flew from Washington D.C. to Charlotte together aboard Air Force One, did not address Comey’s remarks during the rally here.
Instead, they focused on drawing a sharp contrast between Clinton and presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“If what you care about is who’s going to be fighting for ordinary folks … then I don’t know how you vote for the guy who’s against minimum wage, against unions, against making sure everyone gets a fair shot,” Obama said.
Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Trump took to Twitter to deride Comey’s recommendation, saying “The system is rigged.”
Obama, who did not mention Trump by name during his remarks, took a jab at the candidate’s frequent Twitter use, saying “anybody can tweet, but nobody actually knows what it takes” to be president unless they have held the office.
Many at the rally said they hoped the FBI’s recommendation against criminal charges would lift the shadow the probe has cast over Clinton’s campaign for months.
James Nance, 67, a retired school behavioral specialist, said he was initially concerned when news surfaced last year of Clinton’s use of a private email server, saying “it showed a lack of judgment.” But Nance said he continues to support her because of her lexperience.
“I think she’s taken steps to be transparent about it,” Nance said. “The good outweighs the bad.”
Other supporters said they hoped Obama’s endorsement would give Clinton a boost in the battleground state of North Carolina. Obama won the state 2008 but lost narrowly to Republican Mitt Romney in 2012.
“His opinion still carries a lot of weight,” Kim Smith, 55, a communications professor, said of Obama. “Hopefully, it will drive more people to the polls.”