A jovial President Barack Obama lit into Donald Trump Tuesday, using his first solo campaign appearance to openly question the nominee's fitness for the presidency. Obama didn't directly address Hillary Clinton's bout with pneumonia, which has kept her housebound as the campaign enters its final stretch. But he did issue a warning for anyone who's questioning the Democratic candidate's ability to perform the job. "You want to debate who's more fit to be president? One candidate has traveled to more countries than any other secretary of state has. Has more qualifications than any candidate in history. And the other who isn't fit in any way shape or form to represent this country abroad or to be its commander in chief," Obama said at roaring campaign rally in Philadelphia. He dismissed questions about Clinton's transparency, which arose after she kept quiet her pneumonia diagnosis for several days. Instead, he ripped into Trump's decision to withhold his tax returns, a historic break from precedent. "You want to debate transparency? You've got one candidate in this race who's released decades' worth of her tax returns. The other candidate is the first in decades who refuses to release any at all," Obama said. For Obama, Tuesday's event was a return to the rollicking campaign events that thrust him into the White House eight years ago, and won him reelection in 2012. He exclaimed as he took the stage here it was "good to be back on the campaign trail," a sentiment that was returned by loud cheers by the crowd of hundreds. "Can I just say I am really into electing Hillary Clinton?" Obama told the crowd, which enthusiastically greeted him. "This is not me just going through the motions here. I really, really, really want to elect Hillary Clinton." Obama is just one of a cavalry of top White House Democrats -- also including First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden -- who are arguing Clinton's case this week as the Democratic nominee herself is convalescing from pneumonia and absent from the trail. The timing is opportune for a campaign eager both to spotlight its most popular surrogates and to move past a rocky patch. While Obama's Philadelphia stop was planned well ahead of Clinton's declaration that half of her rival's supporters were "deplorable" and new worries about her transparency, the campaign hopes the President's rally can at least provide a new storyline. But even an appearance from Obama -- whose approval rating reached a nearly eight-year high of 58% in an ABC/Washington Post poll Monday -- won't necessarily cure all of Clinton's woes as the campaign enters its busiest stretch. The White House Monday said Obama would not be relegated to "damage control" for Clinton's stumbles, and he declined to address either the "deplorable" dust-up or her illness directly. Instead, Obama leaned hard into his criticisms of Trump, using his stature as commander in chief to disqualify the Republican candidate. Hillary Clinton stumbles — but will her campaign follow? "You've got the Donald, who just last week went on Russian television to talk down our military and curry favor with Vladimir Putin," Obama said, referring to an interview appearance on RT. "He loves this guy! Think about what's happened in the Republican Party," Obama said. "They used to be opposed to Russia and authoritarianism and fighting for freedom. Now their nominee is out there praising a guy, saying he's a strong leader, because he invades smaller countries, jails his opponents."
Behind the mic...
Anderson Cooper is the anchor of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360°, a global newscast that goes beyond the headlines with in-depth reporting and investigations. The show airs weeknights at 8:00pm ET on CNN and is simulcast to an international audience on CNN International.
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