When President Barack Obama campaigned at Fayetteville State University on Friday for his fellow Democrat running to succeed him, a protester disrupted his rally for a minute or two.
A man who appeared to be a military veteran peacefully stood up and held a Donald Trump campaign sign. Upset members of the crowd of 4,500 chanted “Hillary” and shouted at the protester.
“I told you to be focused, and you’re not focused right now,” Obama told the crowd. “Listen to what I’m saying. Hold up, hold up, hold up, hold up, hold up. Everybody sit down and be quiet for a second.”
Once Obama regained control, he told the audience the protester was there to support his preferred candidate and was not causing harm. He added that the man should be respected for his military service.
Throughout his rally, which preceded another campaign stop in Charlotte, Obama focused on the need to move on from a bitter election cycle and a deeply divided political climate.
“If we lose focus, we’re gonna have Donald,” he said.
Amber Coleman, a Raleigh resident and junior at Fayetteville State, said she appreciated Obama’s efforts to stay positive.
“I was one of the ones encouraging everybody to boo, and then I listened to what he said,” Coleman said. “We do lose focus sometimes and focus on the negatives instead of the positives ... We need to pay more attention to what we’re saying about Hillary than the negatives about Trump.”
Obama encouraged his supporters to pay attention to the issues at stake in the presidential race. He spoke passionately about Hillary Clinton’s record under his administration as secretary of state and called her “loyal to me” and “outstanding in her job.”
He tailored his speech to young voters and reminded them about Clinton’s policies on free tuition and affordable health care. He said she could build on the progress he made as president.
“I need you to vote. America needs you to vote because we’ve got to finish what we started eight years ago,” he said.
He told the crowd too much was at stake for people to sit the election out. He described Republican Donald Trump as “uniquely unfit” and said the United States could not afford to operate under a Trump presidency.
“Right now, you can reject the mean-spirited politics that would take us backward,” Obama said.
Obama’s optimistic message comes at a time when Clinton has seen her poll numbers go down.
Several polls indicate Clinton’s lead in the race has grown smaller since FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Congress on Oct. 28 saying the bureau was investigating additional emails in connection with Clinton’s use of a private server for email as secretary of state.
Kara Carter, a Republican National Committee spokeswoman, said Comey’s past comments on the case show Clinton has poor judgment. She added it is too late in the election for Obama’s words to make a difference.
“President Obama is still trying to convince his coalition of voters that Hillary Clinton can be trusted,” Carter said in a statement. “Unfortunately for the Clinton campaign, if President Obama couldn’t inspire voters to back Hillary Clinton over the last several months, no visit in the final days will.”
Though Obama spent much of his time drawing contrasts between Clinton and Trump, he also weighed in on important North Carolina races. He accused Gov. Pat McCrory of suppressing minority voters. He was also highly critical of Sen. Richard Burr.
“He’s a perfectly nice guy to talk to, but he seems to be willing to say anything just to get elected,” Obama said.
Toward the end of his rally, he stressed the importance of winning North Carolina, a critical swing state that could seal a Clinton victory.
“If you vote, we’ll win North Carolina,” Obama said. “If we win North Carolina, Hillary Clinton will be president.”