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Obama Buoys Hope for Clinton Supporters

  • Mary Alice Salinas

President Barack Obama points to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during a Clinton campaign event in Charlotte, North Carolina, July 5, 2016.

President Barack Obama points to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during a Clinton campaign event in Charlotte, North Carolina, July 5, 2016.

Democrats are hoping that President Barack Obama will help presidential candidate Hillary Clinton energize the party when he delivers a highly anticipated speech Wednesday at the Democratic National Convention.

Obama is very popular among Democrats, but remains a divisive figure in the country at large, with only about one in two Americans approving of his job performance. Nevertheless, with substantial majorities disapproving of both Clinton and her Republican rival, Donald Trump, Obama's support is seen as a boon.

For the president, helping to elect Clinton will help protect many of his key achievements while in office, such as expanded access to healthcare and the Iran nuclear deal.

Republicans so far have been happy to tie Clinton to Obama's record. They believe widespread opposition to those policies will help propel their candidate to victory.

President Barack Obama walks along the Colonnade as he heads to the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, July 27, 2016.

President Barack Obama walks along the Colonnade as he heads to the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, July 27, 2016.

What Obama is expected to say

In an interview aired Wednesday on NBC’s Today Show, Obama urged Democrats to “stay worried” about the possibility of a Trump win until all the votes are counted.

"It is the nature of democracy that until those votes are cast and the American people have their say, we don't know," he said.

White House officials say Obama will tell supporters in Philadelphia why he believes electing Trump would put the United States on a “risky path,” but he will also seek to deliver a more positive message.

“I think the president will talk about who we are as a country and that we are better united than divided, and that we’re better together than apart,” said deputy press secretary Eric Schultz on Tuesday. Obama will also recall “what the grit, ingenuity and determination of the American people helped to achieve over the past eight years.”

Obama is expected to carry forward the theme into campaign events for Clinton leading up to the November presidential polls.

“Not just because it is a stark contrast between the two candidates on the ballot this year,” added Schultz, “but also because it’s a principle that has animated the president’s lifetime of public service.”

Supporting candidate and party

Obama energized supporters during his first campaign appearance with Clinton in Charlotte, North Carolina, on July 5.

He portrayed his former secretary of state as an intelligent, highly qualified, hard-working, tough and passionate leader who will protect the nation, help working families, and promote American interests and values.

Several convention delegates said they hope Obama will speak about the Democratic Party as well as its candidate.

“His election eight years ago wasn’t about just electing Barack Obama. It was about the mission of our party, of progressives,” said Yvonne Reeves-Chong, a Clinton delegate from Missouri. “We’re still on that mission. This is just the next leg.”

Mary Lou Tevebaugh, a Clinton delegate from Texas, agreed that Obama "has to stick with the message that there has been a lot of progress. When he took office, things were so bad,” she said, referring to the global economic meltdown that began in 2008.

Protesters clash in Public Square on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland, during the final day of the Republican convention.

Protesters clash in Public Square on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland, during the final day of the Republican convention.

Republicans run against Obama tenure

Trump, meanwhile, has enjoyed unexpected success in spite of a series of controversial remarks, largely by carping on what many Americans see as the failures of the Obama presidency. He and other Republicans have argued that Obama’s policies have allowed the Islamic State terrorist group to thrive, killed American jobs, fomented racial divisions and created an out-of-control immigration system.

On the second day of the Democratic convention, Trump tweeted, “Why aren't the Democrats speaking about ISIS, bad trade deals, broken borders, police and law and order.”

A Pokemon poster is visible behind Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as she speaks to volunteers at a Democratic party organizing event at the Neighborhood Theater in Charlotte, N.C., July 25, 2016.

A Pokemon poster is visible behind Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as she speaks to volunteers at a Democratic party organizing event at the Neighborhood Theater in Charlotte, N.C., July 25, 2016.

Some changes likely under Clinton

Obama and Clinton have closely aligned visions for the future, including policies to promote job growth, make community college free, advance affordable child care and family leave.

While Clinton and Obama have disagreed on some issues, such as trade, a Clinton win would likely mean a continuation of his policies, an appealing prospect to Obama's most fervent supporters.

“President Obama is one of the most inspirational, transformational figures we’ve ever had in the political world. The Hillary Clinton campaign needs him out there just inspiring Democratic voters to get out there and vote,” said Andrea Dew Steele, president of a Democratic Party-aligned group that recruits more female electoral candidates.

Obama "really can be the person to help inspire the base, but he also just inspires Democrats, period,” Steele added.

VOA national editor Jim Fry contributed to this report.

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