Obama warns ‘democracy itself’ at stake in US election

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 14: President Barack Obama campaigns for Hillary Clinton at a "Get Out the Early Vote" rally at Cleveland Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio on October 14, 2016. Early voting began on October 12 in Ohio.   Jeff Swensen/Getty Images/AFP

CLEVELAND, OH – OCTOBER 14: President Barack Obama campaigns for Hillary Clinton at a “Get Out the Early Vote” rally at Cleveland Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio on October 14, 2016. Early voting began on October 12 in Ohio. Jeff Swensen/Getty Images/AFP

US President Barack Obama warned Friday that American “democracy itself” is on the ballot in November’s presidential election, as White House concern grows about the lasting impact of Republican Donald Trump’s scorched-earth campaign.

At a fiery campaign event for Democrat Hillary Clinton in Cleveland, Ohio, Obama trashed Trump as a dictator-in-the-making, but also voiced concerns about how Trump’s legion of supporters might react to a possible election defeat.

Trump has in the last week declared himself free from the shackles of normal political etiquette and hurled a series of highly inflammatory accusations against Clinton and her husband.

“Civility is on the ballot” on November 8, Obama told a group of largely young voters in the swing state of Ohio.

“Tolerance is on the ballot,” he continued. “Courtesy is on the ballot. Honesty is on the ballot. Equality is on the ballot. Kindness is on the ballot. All the progress we made in the last eight years is on the ballot.

“Democracy itself is on the ballot right now.”

As Trump has tanked in polls, his campaign in chaos over a damning video tape and snowballing allegations of sexual impropriety, thoughts have turned to whether the controversial real estate mogul would even acknowledge defeat should he lose.

He has spent the last week claiming the media and a “global elite” are working against him.

“Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of US sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors,” Trump told supporters in Florida.

Obama gave that claim short shrift.

“C’mon man!” he said.

“This is somebody who… is now suggesting that if the election doesn’t go his way, it’s not because all the stuff he’s said, but it’s because it’s rigged and it’s a fraud.

“You don’t start complaining about the refs before the game’s even done. You just play the game, right?”

– Low-profile Clinton –

Obama’s speech was the second strike at Trump in as many days by the US presidential couple — after Michelle Obama caused a sensation with an impassioned takedown of the Republican nominee.

With 25 days to go before Election Day, Clinton cheered on as the first lady branded Trump “disgraceful” and urged women to fight him at the ballot box — but is herself keeping a strikingly low profile.

Clinton has no campaign rallies planned for days, leaving Trump to battle on alone in a sea of swirling sexual assault allegations.

The Democrat has been campaigning almost like an incumbent president, quietly confident she holds a decisive edge.

At this point in the 2012 campaign, the Republican candidate Mitt Romney held 11 rallies in a single week.

Hillary Clinton? Only five, the most recent on Wednesday.

Since Thursday, she has been on the West Coast to raise funds and appear on the Ellen DeGeneres talk show.

“I don’t want anybody to think that this election is over, because it’s been so unpredictable until now that I’m not taking anything for granted,” she told her celebrity interviewer.

And yet Clinton’s next public appearance may not be until her third and final debate against Trump on Wednesday in Las Vegas.

Her Republican rival, for his part, has been campaigning at a furious pace, pushing back hard against the deluge of accusations of unwanted sexual advances brought by more than six women since last weekend.

That was when a damning video emerged of Trump bragging in 2005 that he had kissed and fondled women and that because he was a “star, they let you do anything.”

Yet another allegation of misconduct surfaced Friday, from a former aspiring model, Kristin Anderson, who told The Washington Post that Trump had sidled up to her in a nightclub in the early 1990s, reached under her skirt and touched her vagina through her panties.

Trump insists he has never acted on what he minimized as “locker room talk.”

The Manhattan billionaire has threatened a libel suit against The New York Times, which reported the detailed complaints of two women that he had touched them inappropriately — including one who said he grabbed her breasts and reached between her legs as they sat in adjoining seats on an airplane.

Trump’s advisers and surrogates have also counterattacked, vowing to disprove the allegations.

But the rest of the Republican Party remains deeply divided over its standard-bearer.

Many elected Republican officials, worried about their re-election prospects, have taken their distance from Trump, though some have since reversed their stance, citing fears that Clinton’s appointments as president would move the Supreme Court sharply to the left.

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