With Hillary Clinton sidelined by pneumonia, her presidential campaign over the past 72 hours has dispatched its highest-profile surrogates to the stump, with President Obama joining former President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton.
Mr. Obama, speaking at a Philadelphia rally Tuesday afternoon, pleaded with younger voters to get involved in the campaign and to pay attention to Mrs. Clinton’s proposals.
“The young people who are here … you maybe don’t remember all the work she has had to do, all the things she has had to overcome,” Mr. Obama said. “You need to understand this: If you’re serious about our democracy, then you’ve got to be with her. She’s in the arena, and you can’t leave her in there by herself. You can’t stay home because she’s been around for a long time. This is not reality TV. Democracy’s not a spectator sport. You don’t tweet in your vote.”
Chelsea Clinton appeared at two campaign events in North Carolina on Tuesday and was scheduled to speak at five more this week, including in the key battleground states of Virginia and Ohio.
Putting the other members of the Clinton family front and center, analysts say, is a smart move for the campaign, given that both Chelsea and Mr. Clinton have higher favorability ratings than Mrs. Clinton.
“I think that most people still find Bill eminently likable and engaging. Unlike Hillary, he does not come off as being a closed personality, always seeking to protect her private self. Ironically, even though he is the one guilty of deceit and overt violations of social rules of etiquette, she is the one people do not trust,” said William Chafe, a historian at Duke University who has spent decades studying the Clintons. “Chelsea is a more neutral figure, an attractive personality and a young mother.”
If poll numbers are any indication, the American public seems willing to accept Bill and Chelsea Clinton as members of the first family again.
Chelsea Clinton’s favorability rating is 51 percent, according to Gallup, making her the only Clinton seen in a favorable light by a majority of Americans.
Mr. Clinton’s stands at 49 percent, compared with his wife’s abysmal favorability rating of 40 percent, Gallup surveys show.
On Monday, less than 24 hours after Mrs. Clinton collapsed at a 9/11 memorial service in New York, Mr. Clinton appeared on CBS News to assure the public that his wife was making a speedy recovery and was in overall good health. Mr. Clinton is scheduled to be on the campaign trail in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
Mr. Clinton also has emerged as the most vocal defender of the Clinton Foundation since Mrs. Clinton was accused of rewarding foundation donors with political access while she was secretary of state. The former president told CBS News on Monday that critics who say the foundation worked in concert with Mrs. Clinton’s State Department are flat wrong.
“To the best of my knowledge … the people they accused or implied gave money to the foundation just so they could have some in with Hillary did not do that. That’s simply not true,” he said.
Although Bill and Chelsea Clinton are valuable surrogates, they aren’t able to carry all of the burden while Mrs. Clinton recovers from pneumonia. The campaign also is turning to Mr. Obama, vice presidential contender Tim Kaine, first lady Michelle Obama and others this week to generate enthusiasm on the stump and to keep the heat on Republican nominee Donald Trump.
Mrs. Obama will campaign for Mrs. Clinton in Virginia on Friday, and the president spoke at a Philadelphia rally Tuesday afternoon.
Mr. Kaine, meanwhile, spoke at rallies in Michigan and Ohio, and later this week is scheduled to headline two events in New Hampshire.
In an appearance at the University of Michigan, Mr. Kaine on Tuesday defended Mrs. Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment, saying the former first lady was merely calling out the racism, xenophobia and sexism associated with Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.
“If you cannot call out bigotry, if you cannot call out racism, xenophobia, if you can’t call it out and you stand back and you’re silent about it, you’re enabling it to grow,” Mr. Kaine said. “I’m happy to be on a ticket with somebody who’s not afraid to call out bad behavior.”
At a fundraiser last week, Mrs. Clinton referred to half of Mr. Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables” who are “irredeemable.” She has since said she regrets lumping so many Trump supporters into that category, and specifically was sorry for saying “half” are deplorable.
⦁ Dave Boyer contributed to this report.