By Ginger Gibson
WAUKEE, IOWA (Reuters) - President Barack Obama offered a boost to Hillary Clinton’s argument that an experienced candidate is needed to succeed him at the White House, while also rebutting comparisons between his 2008 campaign and Bernie Sanders.
A week before the Iowa caucuses launch the nominating process, Clinton is working to link her campaign more closely to the president and garner more support from his backers. She is arguing that while Sanders is arguing for laudable goals, some are unobtainable and he lacks the experience to tackle a wide range of issues.
"(The) one thing everybody understands is that this job right here, you don’t have the luxury of just focusing on one thing,” Obama said in an interview with Politico.
Obama, who remains very popular within his own Democratic Party, has said he will not endorse a candidate in the primary but has admitted he is watching closely to see who will succeed him. His kind words for Clinton could offer a powerful talking point for his former secretary of state.
All three Democrats in the race - Clinton, Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley - will have a prime-time opportunity to make their closing arguments on Monday night in a nationally televised town hall meeting on CNN that begins at 9 p.m. EST (0200 GMT). The candidates will appear individually on stage, fielding questions from the moderators and trying to make their final pitches ahead of the Feb. 1 voting in Iowa.
In the interview, Obama also disputed comparisons that are being made between himself and Sanders, who is often described as an underdog candidate who excites young voters and is drawing larger crowds. As Sanders gained ground on Clinton, pundits began drawing strong comparisons with Obama’s come-from-behind win in 2008 against her.
"I don’t think that's true," Obama said when asked about the comparisons.
Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, agreed they are not the same, but still pointed to a similar crowd response and said the U.S. senator from Vermont enjoys a similar momentum.
"They're obviously very different people," Weaver told CNN on Monday.
Clinton’s campaign will certainly delight at the praise Obama offered her.
“(S)he’s extraordinarily experienced — and, you know, wicked smart and knows every policy inside and out — (and) sometimes (that) could make her more cautious, and her campaign more prose than poetry,” Obama said of Clinton.
REPUBLICANS GRAPPLE FOR BIG IOWA FINISH
On the Republican side of the nomination fight to be the party's candidate in the November general election, the battle for endorsements and voters continues to grow as the election nears.
U.S. Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa will campaign on Monday alongside presidential hopeful Marco Rubio - a move that the Ernst campaign insists is not an endorsement of her Senate colleague from Florida.
Iowa's other senator, Chuck Grassley, raised eyebrows on Saturday when he appeared at a Donald Trump event, where he also insisted he was not providing a formal endorsement.
Trump on Monday continued to launch attacks regarding the birthplace of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who is locked in a tight battle in Iowa for first place with the real estate mogul.
“It's time for Ted Cruz to either settle his problem with the FACT that he was born in Canada and was a citizen of Canada, or get out of race,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Monday morning.
(Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Roberta Rampton.)