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Politics

Obama seeks to settle scores with Republicans as he campaigns for Clinton

Barack Obama
President Obama speaks at a campaign rally for Hillary Clinton in Kissimmee, Fla. on Sunday.
(John Raoux / Associated Press)

Campaigning for Hillary Clinton at a Florida baseball stadium, President Obama lamented Sunday that the nature of this year’s presidential race has become so negative that even “Saturday Night Live” this week couldn’t keep parodying it. 

What bothered him most, the president said, was the way “stuff that’s not normal, people have been treating like it’s normal.”

He referred to how just days ago he encouraged people at one of his rallies to show respect for a Donald Trump supporter who came to protest the event.

But Trump claimed just hours later that Obama had yelled at the man.

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“Didn’t just make it up, but said the exact opposite of what had happened, with impunity,” he said. “There was tape. There was a video.... He thought it was OK just to lie in front of all his supporters.

“That says something about how unacceptable behavior has become normal,” Obama added. “And that’s why he is uniquely unqualified to hold this job. The good news is, all of you are uniquely qualified to make sure that he doesn’t get the job!”

Obama also mocked Trump after a report that his own campaign apparently had taken away his access to Twitter, where Trump has been known to send insulting missives.

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“If somebody can’t handle a Twitter account, they can’t handle the nuclear codes,” Obama said.

It was a typically chesty speech from the outgoing commander in chief as he not only stumps aggressively for Hillary Clinton to succeed him, but settles some scores with the Republicans who have tried to stifle his every move for eight years.

In his reelection campaign four years ago, Obama would talk somewhat optimistically — in retrospect, perhaps naively — about his view that Republicans who had opposed him in his first term would be more cooperative should he win a second.

Knowing he would not be on the ballot again, there was less political incentive to deny him policy victories, and perhaps political incentive to try to find common ground, he thought.

“The fever will break,” he would say back then.

“C’mon, man,” has become his head-shaking credo now. 

Obama on Sunday again attacked Republicans who support Trump even though they hold private — and some even public — reservations about him. He also warned that electing a Republican Congress would lead to a continuation of the obstruction he’s faced.

“They’re suggesting they might impeach Hillary. They don’t know what for yet. But they’re thinking about it,” Obama said. 

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Gridlock, he continued, is not “some mysterious fog that descends on Washington,” or something equally the fault of Democrats and Republicans.

“You want some more endless gridlock, vote for Republicans. You want an America that can do better … then you need to vote for Democrats up and down the ballot,” he said.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has emerged as one of Obama’s favorite targets, an example of a Republican whose devotion to defeating Democrats sometimes supersedes his personal and policy convictions. 

Rubio supports Trump now, Obama said, even though he called Trump a con artist while running against him for the GOP nomination. 

“He tweeted, ‘Friends don’t let friends vote for con artists,’” Obama said. "Guess who just voted for Trump a few days ago? Marco Rubio.”

Rubio’s opponent, Rep. Patrick Murphy, appeared before Obama on Sunday.

“If you want a senator who will say anything, do anything, be anybody just to get elected, then that’s your guy,” Obama said of Rubio. “If you want a senator who will show up and work for you and tell you the truth, then vote for Patrick Murphy and give Hillary some help.”

Obama made just one stop Sunday here in Central Florida, a key swing area in the always-important battleground state. “We win this election if we win Florida,” Obama said. “If we win Florida, it’s a wrap.”

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Monday he has three appearances scheduled, in Michigan, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. He will join Clinton at the latter.

michael.memoli@latimes.com

For more 2016 campaign coverage, follow @mikememoli on Twitter

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