WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama said Saturday night he will take it as a “personal insult” if the African-American community fails to turn out for the presidential election, encouraging black voters to support Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
In her own pitch to African-Americans at the same dinner, Clinton implored members of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation to help protect Obama’s legacy, warning of a “dangerous and divisive vision” that could come from Republican opponent Donald Trump.
Obama joked about the “birther” issue long promoted and now dismissed by Trump, telling his audience that there’s an extra spring in his step now that the “whole birther thing is over.” But his main message was about voter turnout among blacks.
“I will consider it a personal insult, an insult to my legacy, if this community lets down its guard and fails to activate itself in this election,” he said. “You want to give me a good sendoff, go vote.”
Clinton did not mention Trump by name but showered the president with praise and said the upcoming election would be a pivotal choice for the country.
“It’s not about golf course promotions or birth certificates. It comes down to who will fight for the forgotten, who will invest in our children and who will really have your back in the White House,” Clinton said.
“We need ideas not insults, real plans to help struggling Americans in communities that have been left out and left behind, not prejudice and paranoia. We can’t let Barack Obama’s legacy fall into the hands of someone who doesn’t understand that, whose dangerous and divisive vision for our country will drag us backwards,” she said.
The dinner offered a symbolic passing of the torch to the person Obama hopes will succeed him next year. Clinton, his former secretary of state, was honored for becoming the first female presidential nominee of a major party.
The gala featuring nearly four dozen black members of Congress underscored Clinton’s need for a large turnout of black voters against Trump. In a tight presidential race, Clinton is hoping that African-Americans turn out like they did for Obama’s two victories when they comprised 13 percent of the electorate.
Black voters were among Clinton’s most loyal supporters during the Democratic primaries, powering her to a series of wins in the South that helped her build a delegate lead against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The dinner included warnings about a Trump presidency. Retiring Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., who was honored for his service, said of the GOP nominee, “His hatred and his bigotry has pulled the rug off and the sheet off the Republican Party so we can see it for what it is.”
The gathering came a day after Trump reversed himself on his long-held and false view that Obama was not born in the United States. He acknowledged that Obama was born in America, but then incorrectly suggested that Clinton had started the conspiracy theory during the 2008 presidential contest.
At the dinner, Clinton said of Obama: “Mr. President, not only do we know you are an American, you are a great American.”