Obama fights for Clinton in Ohio as race stays close

President Barack Obama, right, shakes hands with former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, left, as he arrives to speak at a campaign event for the Ohio Democratic Party and Strickland’s Senate bid at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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President Barack Obama, right, shakes hands with former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, left, as he arrives to speak at a campaign event for the Ohio Democratic Party and Strickland’s Senate bid at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Barack Obama on Thursday blamed mainstream Republicans for standing silently as extremists pushed lies, hoaxes and conspiracy theories that gave rise to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump — a candidate many of them are now rejecting.

“The problem is that they’ve been riding this tiger for a long time. They’ve been feeding their base all kinds of crazy for years, primarily for political expedience,” Obama said at the Ohio Democratic Party annual dinner. Obama cited allegations that he wasn’t born in the U.S., he and Hillary Clinton co-founded ISIS, climate change is a hoax, and there is a plot to take away Americans’ guns. “This is in the swamp of crazy that has been fed over and over and over and over again.”

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Sherrod Brown talks presidential campaign politics

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

“Don’t act like this started with Donald Trump. I mean, he did take it to a whole new level. I got to give him credit. But he didn’t come out of no where. And that’s why we got to win this election at every level,” the president said during his nearly 40 minute speech.

Trump team reaction

“Barack Obama is so desperate for a third term that he’s become Defender-in-Chief for Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail, even as more evidence of her disdain for regular Ohioans leaks out every day,” said Trump campaign spokesman Seth Unger in a written statement.

“In big money speeches to Wall Street, Hillary advocates for ‘hemispheric’ open trade and open borders that would force more Ohio jobs overseas, admits to having two-faced private positions for lobbyists that conflict with her public positions, and says that terrorism is ‘not a threat to us as a nation.’ President Obama and Hillary Clinton got America into this mess together, and Donald Trump is the only one who can stop them from further cementing their legacy of failure at home and abroad in our history books.”

Helping Strickland in Senate race

Obama urged Ohioans to send former governor Ted Strickland to the U.S. Senate and — without naming him by name — he scolded U.S. Sen. Rob Portman for backing Trump and then belatedly withdrawing his support.

“They don’t get credit for at the very last minute when finally the guy that they nominated and they endorsed and they supported is caught on tape saying things that no decent person would even think much less say, much less brag about, much less laugh about or joke about, much less act on,” Obama said. “You can’t wait until that finally happens and say, ‘Oh, that’s too much.’ And think that somehow you are showing any kind of leadership and deserve to be elected to the United States Senate.”

More than 2,000 packed into the Columbus Convention Center for the annual dinner where the president was the headline attraction.

Obama is a powerful surrogate for Clinton. Fifty-two percent of Americans approve of the job Obama is doing as president — that’s five points higher than his 47 percent average approval rate over the course of his two terms, according to Gallup.

Although Obama has made more than 45 trips to Ohio since becoming president in January 2009, he has made two in 2013, none in 2014, one in March 2015. He is scheduled to campaign for Clinton in Cleveland on Friday morning.

Meanwhile, Trump spoke to millennials bused into downtown Columbus from around the state and held a rally in Cincinnati.

Two new polls released Thursday show a neck-and-neck race in Ohio. The new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has Trump up one point over Clinton, 42-41 percent. A new poll out from Emerson University has Clinton up over Trump by two, 45-43 percent.

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