Delayed from hitting the presidential campaign trail, President Barack Obama previewed his 2016 stump speech Friday for an incumbent governor instead, using a fundraiser here to hit Republicans for dividing the country and lambasting “charlatans” who seek personal gain from exploiting fears.
Declaring GOP rhetoric a detriment to progress, Obama even borrowed Hillary Clinton’s campaign slogan of “stronger together” to argue for unity in the country.
“We don’t have time for charlatans and we don’t have time for bigotry and we didn’t have time for film-flam and we don’t have the luxury of just popping off and saying whatever comes to the tops of our heads,” Obama said during the Friday evening event, held for 3,000 supporters of Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat.
Obama had likely hoped to use his barbed language about Donald Trump — who he avoids naming, but whose policies and style Obama has plainly slammed — during a campaign stop for Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee.
The pair were scheduled to campaign together in Wisconsin a week and a half ago, the debut of what Democrats hope will be a power-team against Trump ahead of the November election.
But the mass shooting in Orlando delayed the event, and no replacement date has yet been named.
Obama instead used Friday’s event to test-drive barbs against Republicans, including suggesting the party is exploiting the economic fears of white, middle-class Americans for political gain.
“Unfortunately, when people are anxious and scared, there are going to be politicians out there who try to prey on that frustration to get themselves headlines and get themselves votes. And that’s what the Republicans have been doing for a while now,” Obama said.
He worked to characterize the entire party as in lock-step with Trump, even as the party’s embrace of their presumptive nominee remains somewhat loose.
“It’s the story they’ve been telling, not just the guy at the top of the ticket, but up and down the ticket,” Obama said.
In his remarks, Obama didn’t reference Friday’s results from the British referendum on exiting the European Union. But he did push back on the type of politics that many view as fueling the “leave” campaign, suggesting that divisions and isolation would pull the country backward.
“Between dividing ourselves up, looking for scapegoats, ignoring the evidence, or not realizing that we are all stronger together — if we turn against each other, whether it’s divisions of race or religion, we’re not going to build on the progress we’ve started,” Obama said.
He continued: “If we get cynical and just vote our fears, or just don’t vote at all, we’re not going to build on the progress we’ve started.”