President Barack Obama had a clear message Tuesday evening: Vote Democrat, up and down the ballot.
“Our future depends on the next seven days,” he told a crowd at a speech delivered at Capital University.
When his mention of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump drew boos, he delivered what has become a catchphrase of sorts for him this election season, saying, “Don’t boo, vote.”
Thousands gathered in Bexley, Ohio,just east of Columbus, at Capital to hear the president speak at a campaign stop for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. In addition to voting, Obama touched on his administration’s policies regarding the economy, climate change and health care as the Democratic Party aims to continue to hold the White House for a third term. Shortly after Obama’s speech, Donald Trump Jr., son of the GOP presidential candidate, spoke at the Ohio Union in an effort to drum up millennial support for his father.
“There’s only one candidate in this race who has devoted her life to a better United States of America, and that’s our next president, Hillary Clinton,” Obama said.
Introducing Obama was a slew of central Ohio Democrats, Kevin Boyce, a state representative running for Franklin County commissioner; Columbus City Council President Zach Klein, who is running for Franklin County prosecutor; Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty, whose district includes parts of Ohio State’s campus and the University District; and Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler.
“My kids are here … and we teach them early on we don’t tolerate bullies,” Kessler said in a reference to Trump. “Bullies cannot be commander in chief.”
Kessler also touted the historical significance that Clinton’s election would bring.
“Our daughters and our sons will have the opportunity to see a woman in the White House,” he said. “(They’ll see) there’s no ceiling, there’s no barrier … they can’t overcome.”
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, also spoke, introducing the president and stumping for Clinton. Strickland is running for one of Ohio’s Senate seats against incumbent Republican Sen. Rob Portman, and highlighted their differences on health care, the economy and labor policy.
“She’s going to need a Senate to work with her to produce a positive and progressive agenda,” Strickland said. “I’m going to fight for working people.”
Obama urged those in attendance to vote for Strickland as Democrats aim to reclaim a majority in the Senate on Nov. 8.
“Ted never supported Donald Trump. You don’t know what Portman is going to do this week,” Obama said, referencing Portman’s endorsement of the GOP nominee, which was withdrawn after a hot-mic video from a 2005 episode of Access Hollywood surfaced in which Trump made comments about groping women.
Obama also brought up promises from Republican Sens. John McCain, of Arizona, Ted Cruz, of Texas and Richard Burr, of North Carolina that they wouldn’t approve justices to the Supreme Court that Clinton makes if she wins. The court has had eight justices since associate justice Antonin Scalia died over the summer. Senate Republicans have blocked Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland because of the impending election.
“(Congressional Republicans are) not going to work with Hillary Clinton,” Obama said.
Gerard Basalla, Ohio State Undergraduate Student Government president, attended the rally and said it was a novel experience.
“I think the opportunity to hear the president speak is unique, and we’re lucky to live in a swing state,” said Basalla, a fourth-year in political science and strategic communication.
He added that, although he has publicly acknowledged his work with Portman’s office and senate campaign, he didn’t feel it was his place to endorse one presidential candidate over another, since USG is a nonpartisan organization.
“It’s my job to get students to the polls, not to push a candidate on people,” Basalla said.
Olivia Adkins, a second-year in public affairs at OSU who attended the event, said she was impressed by Obama’s speech, even though she was already planning to vote for Hillary Clinton.
“It was amazing,” Adkins said. “(Obama) is just an incredible orator, and he had a lot to say.”
As far as her support for Clinton goes, Adkins said she believes the former secretary of state is more qualified.
“If I were in (human resources) and going to hire (one of) two people, I would hire Hillary Clinton,” she said.
Not everyone at Capital was there to wish the president well, however.
Capital students Nick Bochenek, Alex Kotchkoski and Sage Conger held signs criticizing Obama’s foreign policy on the sidewalk as cars passed by the university on East Main Street.
“Drone strikes: America’s #1 export,” read one of the signs.
“Obama is coming, and the whole campus is in a tizzy, an unabashedly liberal campus,” Bochenek said. “I’m glad there isn’t opposition from the right, but I’m very proudly standing in opposition from the left.”
Kotchkoski, despite his criticisms of drone strikes, which have increased during Obama’s term, said he voted for Clinton.
“But if I didn’t live in Ohio, definitely (Green Party presidential nominee) Jill Stein,” Kotchkoski said, referencing Ohio’s status as a swing state.
Conger, who identifies as a Libertarian, said she is not voting for president. Bochenek said he is undecided.
Before he left, Obama pleaded with the crowd to not lose hope.
“If you believe in this country, you can’t be cynical,” he said. “You have a chance to reject divisiveness … you have a chance to make history.”
Update, 11:04 p.m.: This story was updated with comment from Gerard Basalla.