- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 5, 2016

With every word from the FBI director Tuesday, Hillary Clinton’s problems with voters grew more precarious, and President Obama’s role in the general election grew more important.

“There’s no choice here, you’ve got to vote for Hillary Clinton,” Mr. Obama told a predominantly African-American audience at a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina. “My faith in Hillary Clinton has always been rewarded.”

In battleground states such as North Carolina, where Mr. Obama made his first awkwardly timed campaign appearance with the presumptive Democratic nominee, Mrs. Clinton is counting on the president to motivate African-American and liberal voters to go to the polls in November.

“She needs the help,” said Democratic strategist Brad Crone of Raleigh. “She needs to have all the base turn out.”

Even before FBI Director James B. Comey characterized her as “extremely careless” in operating a private email system as secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton was viewed unfavorably by about 55 percent of voters.

And on a day that could have been a plus for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, Mr. Comey’s blistering critique instead bolstered the view that she has been lying to the public when she said she never sent or received documents marked “classified.” His assessment was another brick on the pile of reasons why voters view her as untrustworthy, a problem especially in states like North Carolina, where recent focus group research shows she is more unpopular than presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

“They’re both disliked, but Hillary is disliked more than Trump is,” said Mr. Crone, president of Campaign Connections. “She’s got higher negatives.”

A CNN/ORC poll last week found that 47 percent of voters believe Mr. Trump is more trustworthy than Mrs. Clinton; only 37 percent said they found Mrs. Clinton more trustworthy than her opponent.

Her character problem is also worrisome for other Democratic candidates in the fall. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll on Monday found that in North Carolina and 11 other battleground states, voters by a 13 percentage-point margin would be less inclined to vote for candidates who endorse Mrs. Clinton. Only 4 percent of independent voters, an increasingly important bloc in North Carolina, said they would be more likely to vote for candidates who support Mrs. Clinton, while 38 percent said they would be less inclined.

Overall, nationwide, Mr. Trump has higher unfavorable ratings in polls than Mrs. Clinton. His spread between unfavorable and favorable ratings in Real Clear Politics’ average of polls is a whopping 27.7 percentage points; Mrs. Clinton’s gap is 15.8 percentage points.

With those challenges facing Mrs. Clinton, the president joined her on a campaign stage for the first time, even guiding her to the podium with one hand on the small of her back as if they were dance partners.

The president told the crowd that he gained admiration for Mrs. Clinton during their rivalry for the Democratic nomination in 2008, adding: “She had to do everything I had to do, but she was like Ginger Rogers — she had to do it backward in heels.”

Mr. Obama sprinkled his speech with references designed to appeal especially to the Democratic base, saying Mrs. Clinton has known “struggles” in her life and that Mr. Trump wants to turn back the clock to an era when “people of color suddenly are not going to be competing and wanting a better future for their kids.”

“I recognize, to some degree, I’m preaching to the choir,” Mr. Obama said. “The bottom line is, I know Hillary can do the job.”

The good news for Mrs. Clinton is that she doesn’t need to win North Carolina; most political analysts say the state’s 15 electoral votes are more crucial for Mr. Trump finding a path to victory in November. The last Republican to win the White House without carrying North Carolina was Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. The state is rated a tossup this year.

Hillary doesn’t need to win it as much as Trump has to win it,” Mr. Crone said. “She has a broader playing field than he does. She can force him to come into North Carolina to defend his territory, and she can still focus on Virginia. She can force Trump to come in here and spend money and resources. Trump has no organization in the state.”

Mr. Obama won the state in 2008, becoming the first Democrat in 32 years to do so. He lost North Carolina in 2012 by two percentage points to Republican Mitt Romney.

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