Politics

Obama Hammers Trump, Portman in Ohio

President casts GOP senator as hostile to policies good for workers, women

President Barack Obama on Tuesday campaigned for Hillary Clinton in the battleground state of Ohio. (Douglas Graham / CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Barack Obama took aim Tuesday at Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, urging voters in the key battleground state of Ohio to avoid being “bamboozled.”

Obama traveled to Columbus just seven days before voters will head to the polls, with The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call listing the presidential race in Ohio as a Tossup. Trump and his Democratic foe Hillary Clinton are making an eleventh-hour push to fire up their bases and win over undecided voters in a list of swing states, including Ohio.

“Donald Trump is uniquely unqualified to be president,” Obama said. “He is temperamentally unfit to be commander in chief.”

The president urged the audience to consider that many Republican lawmakers have said similar things before “they decided it was politically convenient” to voice their support for Trump. He accused GOP officials of “doing backflips” on whether they truly support Trump’s candidacy.

[Obama Puts Bull’s-Eye on Rubio During Feisty Orlando Rally]

Obama included in that group Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican who is seeking a second term against Democrat Ted Strickland, a former governor and House member. That race is rated Republican Favored, and the latest RealClearPolitics average of recent polls puts Portman up by more than 14 points.

Obama urged the crowd to vote early, saying they cannot take any race for granted. He said Clinton will, if elected, “need allies like Ted Strickland.” He touted Strickland’s support of policies to protect overtime pay and the ability of workers to collectively bargain, and to ensure women are paid the same as men.

On those issues and others, he cast Portman as adamantly opposed, saying the incumbent senator voted against legislation aimed at ensuring better pay for women five times.

Obama, for the second time since Friday said of congressional Republicans: “If you think a vote for gridlock is a good vote, then you should vote Republican.” He criticized some GOP members for planning to spend the next four years investigating Clinton, should she win, and for opting against working with him after his first election when the country was on the brink of a potential economic collapse.

But the bulk of the outgoing president’s remarks were designed to talk up Clinton and paint Trump in a negative light.

He described the billionaire as a businessman who stiffs subcontractors out of what he owes them, and hit Trump for, as Obama sees it, falsely claiming to be a champion of working Americans.

“C’mon. This guy?” said a clearly agitated Obama. “Don’t be bamboozled.

“That guy had never worn a baseball cap … until he started selling them to make money,” Obama said of Trump’s line of “Make America Great Again” caps.

[‘Big Men’: Is Trump America’s Berlusconi?]

On the way to Ohio, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Obama eagerly accepted the Clinton team’s invitation to embark on a final-week campaign barrage in which he will visit such battleground states as Ohio, Florida and North Carolina. The president looked at home and energetic in Columbus.

Obama won the Buckeye State twice, defeating Arizona Sen. John McCain by 5 points in 2008, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by 3 points in 2012. The latest RealClearPolitics polling average, however, has Trump leading Clinton by 2.5 points in a race that includes third-party candidates.

The president told voters to ignore negative ads and accusations against Clinton, saying she is “treated differently” than any other political candidate he could think of.

“She made me a better president [and] she didn’t ask for credit,” he said of her time as his first-term secretary of State. He dubbed her as battle-tested, intelligent and “worthy of your vote.”

“All you’ve got to do is vote” for Clinton to win, he said. “These are not equal candidates. She doesn’t double down on lies. … She understands the world, she understands the challenges we face. She doesn’t blame others or say, ‘Everything is rigged.’ … She just works harder and she comes back better.”

Contact Bennett at johnbennett@cqrollcall.com. Follow him on Twitter @BennettJohnT.

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