His shirt sleeves rolled up, his vowels slipping off the ends of his words, his last day on the campaign trail finally here, Mr. Obama soaked up an unseasonably warm autumn sun on a baseball field at the University of Michigan on Monday, and drank in the energy of his political finale.
“We’ve got one more day, Michigan — one more day,” he said, gazing out over a crowd of more than 9,000 at midday. But Mr. Obama was not quite ready for it to be over.
“This is gonna be my last” — he caught himself — “probably my last day of campaigning for a while.”
For Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton, Monday’s cross-country travels were all about tomorrow. For Mr. Obama, his travels here to Michigan, and then to New Hampshire and Philadelphia, were part victory lap and part nostalgia tour, as he was accompanied on Air Force One by some of his longest-serving aides, and was ushered in and out of rallies by the same U2 and Bruce Springsteen anthems that were the soundtracks of his campaigns.
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But his core mission was to implore voters across the country to rally behind Mrs. Clinton on Tuesday, or see the values and ideals that fueled his rise and powered his agenda defeated. So Mr. Obama stumped on Monday with the fervor of a man battling to preserve his legacy and with the joy of one who has watched his approval ratings tick higher as the presidential race’s tenor has sunk ever lower, savoring the almost palpable sense at Mrs. Clinton’s rallies that Americans will miss him when he is gone.
“Whatever credibility I’ve earned after eight years as president,” Mr. Obama said, “I am asking you to trust me on this one.”
“I already voted,” he added. “I voted for Hillary Clinton, because I am absolutely confident that when she is president, this country will be in good hands — and I’m asking you to do the same.”
“I love you!” supporters kept shouting at the president as he turned serious to lay out the stakes of an extraordinary race.
“I love you back — I do,” Mr. Obama said in Michigan. “But tomorrow, you will choose whether we continue this journey of progress, or whether it all goes out the window.”
Nostalgia aside, there was no mistaking the seriousness of his message. Mr. Trump could never be trusted with control over the nation’s nuclear arsenal, the president said, if his own staff regarded him as too temperamental to use restraint on social media.
“Over the weekend, his campaign took away his Twitter account,” Mr. Obama said, referring to a report in The New York Times about the closing days of Mr. Trump’s campaign. “Now, if your closest advisers don’t trust you to tweet, then how can we trust him with the nuclear codes?”
“Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit to be commander in chief,” Mr. Obama said. “He’s unqualified to be America’s chief executive.”
Hillary Clinton has an 84% chance of winning the presidency.
Mr. Obama began his day at the White House, striding out of the residence to board Marine One just after 9:30 a.m. to begin his final campaign sprint. He rarely paused in the hours that followed, jetting from state to state on Air Force One, speeding from airport to rally site and back again in his armored limousine, racing against the clock on a historic presidential contest and his own campaign denouement.
In New Hampshire, his motorcade rushed at sunset down roads flanked by flaming-red and burnt-orange foliage to deliver him to a rally that drew more than 7,600. At the airport in Portsmouth, he confessed to a young boy who asked about the presidential jumbo jet that he was reluctant to relinquish Air Force One.
“I am going to miss this plane,” he told the boy with a smile. “I only have it for a few more months.”