President Obama Defends a Benched Hillary Clinton, Who Will Return to Campaign Trail Thursday

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President Obama; Hillary Clinton

Clinton is due back on the trail Thursday after suffering a fainting spell from having pneumonia.

Accusing Republicans of fanning hate, President Barack Obama on Tuesday stepped in to defend a bruised and temporarily benched Hillary Clinton, hoping to reassure Democrats nervous both about their presidential candidate's health and her handling of fresh trouble on her campaign.

Speaking at an outdoor rally in Philadelphia, Obama praised Clinton as the most qualified candidate ever to seek the office and mocked her opponent Donald Trump as "not fit in any way" to lead. He suggested Clinton was again the victim of unfair treatment and a scandal machine that has dogged her throughout her long political career.

"What sets Hillary apart is that through it all she just keeps on going and she doesn't stop caring and she doesn't stop trying and she never stops fighting for us even if we haven't always appreciated it," Obama said. "I understand, we're a young country, we are a restless country. We always like the new shiny thing. I benefited from that when I was a candidate, and we take for granted sometimes what is steady and true. And Hillary Clinton is steady and she is true."

The remarks were the closest Obama came to mentioning Clinton's rough weekend, during which she disparaged "half" of Trump supporters and then backtracked somewhat on her remarks. She also was forced to abruptly leave an event because of an illness she had not disclosed. Clinton was caught on video struggling to stay on her feet. Her campaign later said she been diagnosed with pneumonia.

Clinton canceled campaign events this week to recover, including an appearance on Ellen and two L.A. fundraisers that saw her husband Bill Clinton headlining in her place.

The presidential candidate was due at the Beverly Hills home of Seth MacFarlane, and later at a dinner at the Beverly Hills home of Diane von Furstenberg and Barry Diller, according to the Washington Post. Bill Clinton also will headline his wife's previously scheduled campaign events in Nevada on Wednesday.

On Monday, she called into Anderson Cooper 360 to say, "I'm feeling so much better," and that she was heeding her doctor's advice to rest.

Her campaign said she spent Tuesday reading briefing material, making calls and watching Obama's speech on television.

Clinton is due back on the trail Thursday.

The incident and the campaign's attempt to keep the diagnosis secret revived long-held concerns about Clinton's tendency to hunker down during a crisis, making matters worse.

To an audience of roughly 6,000 supporters in downtown Philadelphia, Obama argued that Clinton has been more transparent in providing health and financial records than her rival, as well as releasing her past tax returns while Trump refuses to release his.

Obama said the Clinton Foundation has "saved countless lives around the world," while Trump used his charity to buy "a six-foot-tall painting of himself," Obama said, referencing a Washington Post investigation of Trump's charity.

"I mean, you know, he had the taste not to go for the 10-foot version," he said.

Obama is seeking to generate momentum — and some passion — for Clinton in a race that has become uncomfortably close for many Democratic supporters. The latest poll by Quinnipiac University found her with a 5 percentage-point edge over Trump in Pennsylvania.

"Look, can I just say I am really into electing Hillary Clinton. Like this not me going through the motions here," he said. "I really, really, really want to elect Hillary Clinton."

Obama also appealed to Trump supporters. He tried to undermine the Republican businessman's claim as a working-class hero. He accused Trump of being unprepared, unserious and "not a facts guy." He seized on Trump's praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Obama cast as an authoritarian strongman who controls the media and crushes dissent.

"Can you imagine Ronald Reagan idolizing somebody like that?" Obama said, invoking the Republican icon.

Branding Republicans as promoting "a dark vision," the president said, "They're not offering serious solutions — they're just fanning resentment, and blame, and anger, and hate."

Trump was scheduled to campaign later Tuesday in a Philadelphia suburb. Pennsylvania, which was carried by a Democratic nominee in the past six elections, is viewed as essential for Trump's chances of achieving the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency.

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