After restless months on the sidelines,
President Obama will jump into the
presidential campaign fray Tuesday with
his first appearance with Hillary Clinton at
a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Mr. Obama’s formal entrance into the
campaign gives the presumptive
Democratic nominee an advantage that is
rare in the modern era — the active
backing of a two-term president who is
popular enough and active enough in the
final year of his presidency to help his
party’s nominee at the polls. The
president’s job approval rating is hovering
just over 50 percent, according to the
latest Gallup daily tracking poll.
“These moments don’t come too often,”
said Donna Brazile, vice chairwoman of
the Democratic National Committee and
campaign manager for Al Gore’s
presidential bid in 2000. “I think it’s a
great moment for her to reach deeper into
the Democratic Party, but also to expand
the base beyond just Democrats.”
When they were rivals for the presidency
eight years ago, Mr. Obama famously
referred to Mrs. Clinton without
enthusiasm as “likable enough.” Now,
they need each other.
Mr. Obama needs Mrs. Clinton to win to
block presumptive Republican nominee
Donald Trump and to continue his legacy
on the Affordable Care Act, climate
change, clean energy and other policies.
Mrs. Clinton needs the president to
reassemble his winning coalition from
2008 and 2012, especially the younger
voters who favored Sen. Bernard Sanders
of Vermont in the Democratic primary
“President Obama expanded the
electorate [in 2008 and 2012],” Ms.
Brazile said. “He got new people to
register, especially millennials. I think
that’s one of the gaps that she needs to
fill. He’s going to lift up a lot more than
Democrats with his speech.”
One sign of Mr. Obama’s draw on the
campaign trail this year: The Charlotte
Observer reported that Democratic U.S.
Senate candidate Deborah Ross and
gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper will
be at the Charlotte Convention Center for
the rally. Both, the paper noted, did not
attend when Mrs. Clinton spoke alone last
month at a rally in Raleigh.
Although most Democrats are excited that
Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton will unite on
the campaign trail, the timing of their rally
is hardly ideal. The Clinton campaign
planned to hold its first rally with Mr.
Obama in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on June
15, but the event was postponed in the
aftermath of the terrorist attack at a
nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
Their rescheduled joint appearance will be
just a week after former President Bill
Clinton caused a furor by inviting himself
onto the government plane of Attorney
General Loretta Lynch on the Phoenix
airport tarmac. Ms. Lynch acknowledged
that the half-hour chat “cast a shadow”
on her ability to decide impartially
whether the Justice Department should
bring criminal charges in an investigation
of Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email
server during her tenure as secretary of
FBI agents interviewed Mrs. Clinton for 3
hours in the probe Saturday at her home
in Washington.
North Carolina tensions
The rally in Charlotte also will be during
the Obama administration’s dispute with
North Carolina’s Republican-dominated
state government over its law requiring
transgender people to use restrooms
corresponding to the sex on their birth
certificates in many public buildings. The
law also excludes gender identity and
sexual orientation as a basis for bias
claims. State lawmakers declined to make
major changes to the law late last week.
White House officials said Mr. Obama
isn’t likely to dwell Tuesday on the LGBT
controversy in North Carolina, which has
emerged as a key battleground state.
“The focus of the president’s remarks in
Charlotte will be on Secretary Clinton, and
his view that she has the character, the
toughness, skills and experience to
succeed him as president of the United
States,” said White House press secretary
Josh Earnest.
In 2012, Mr. Obama lost North Carolina to
Republican Mitt Romney by 2 percentage
points. The state is rated as a tossup this
On Tuesday night, Mr. Trump will speak
in Raleigh, where he is expected to blast
Mrs. Clinton for, in effect, running for a
third Obama term. The Republican has
not aired campaign ads in the state,
which has 15 electoral votes.
North Carolina has 2.6 million registered
Democrats, about 2 million registered
Republicans and 1.9 million unaffiliated
registered voters.
Presidential advisers say Mr. Obama will
deliver a positive message focusing on
Mrs. Clinton’s credentials, but the
president has been unable to conceal his
contempt for Mr. Trump. For months, Mr.
Obama has tossed thinly veiled barbs at
the billionaire developer and reality TV
star while waiting for the outcome of Mrs.
Clinton’s primary election battle.
During a visit to Canada last week, the
president belittled Mr. Trump’s “populist”
image and described him as someone
“who has never shown any regard for
workers, has never fought on behalf of
social justice issues.”
Mr. Obama has let it be known that he
believes Mr. Trump lacks the
temperament and character to be
commander in chief.
There’s also a practical, partisan
consideration — that his presidential
legacy would go up in smoke under a
Trump administration. The Republican
has vowed to unravel the Affordable Care
Act, revoke the Iranian nuclear deal,
rescind a variety of Mr. Obama’s
executive orders and rip up the
president’s free trade agreements.
Ms. Brazile said the president is
motivated by his vision for America, not
by any animosity for Mr. Trump. She also
said Mr. Trump is the one who started the
squabbles by questioning Mr. Obama’s
birthplace and citizenship during his first
“Donald Trump was the one who went
after President Obama in 2011,” she said.
“So this notion that somehow or another
this is about revenge, that’s not the case.
This president is concerned about the
country and the future, not just one
politician out of thousands. He
understands that the presidency, the
Congress, the Supreme Court, everything
is at stake in this election cycle.”
In an email to supporters last weekend,
Mr. Obama urged Democrats to donate
money to Organizing for Action, the
grass-roots group that spun off from his
2012 re-election campaign. He said his
work of the past eight years is at stake in
this election.
“We can’t become complacent,” Mr.
Obama said. “Progress isn’t inevitable.
We’ve got more work to do and more
ground to cover.”
Mr. Obama said he hopes the defeat of
Mr. Trump in November will cause the
Republican Party to engage in some soul-
“If we get the decisions that need to be
made right, then 10 years from now, 20
years from now, we may look back at
something like the Trump campaign as
the last vestige of a kind of politics of ‘us
versus them’ that really doesn’t apply to
today,” Mr. Obama told NPR last week.