President Obama sat down with Politico’s Glenn Thrush over the weekend to weigh in on the current Democratic battle brewing between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. While the president insisted he does not want to act as a political consultant, he did make a few observations as to why Sanders seems to be gaining on the presumed frontrunner.
He first indicated that Sanders’ progressive passion can account for his rise in the polls:
“Yeah. Yeah. I think — look, I've gotten to know Hillary really well, and she is a good, smart, tough person who cares deeply about this country, and she has been in the public eye for a long time and in a culture in which new is always better. And, you know, you're always looking at the bright, shiny object that people don't, haven't seen before. That's a disadvantage to her. Bernie is somebody who —although I don't know as well because he wasn't, obviously, in my administration, has the virtue of saying exactly what he believes, and great authenticity, great passion, and is fearless. His attitude is, “I got nothing to lose.”
Obama went on to praise Clinton for her experience, yet admitted she is perhaps a bit “rusty” on the campaign trail:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, look, as I’ve said before, I think that, like any candidate, her strengths can be her weaknesses. Her strengths, which are the fact that she’s extraordinarily experienced – and, you know, wicked smart and knows every policy inside and out – sometimes could make her more cautious and her campaign more prose than poetry, but those are also her strengths. It means that she can govern and she can start here, [on] day one, more experienced than any non-vice president has ever been who aspires to this office. Her strengths, in terms of the ability to debate, the ability to, I think, project genuine concern in smaller groups and to interact with people, where folks realize she’s really warm and funny and engaging—
GLENN THRUSH: Do you think being secretary of state for a while made it a little difficult in order for her to get back and transition to where she was?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, look, you’re always rusty when you start going back in.
Clinton’s unpracticed politicking can account for why Sanders is now leading her in both Iowa and New Hampshire, the latter by double digits. Obama insisted the race is not a repeat of 2008, but there’s no denying Clinton has once again been blindsided by a surprise opponent. Her advisers even admitted they underestimated the Vermont senator and should have set their sights on him much earlier.
One thing Obama didn’t discuss was that pesky little email scandal that has dogged Clinton for months. The growing scandal has eroded voters’ trust in the former secretary of state, who seemed to have no issue handling classified national security material on an unsecure private server, vulnerable to hacking. The unfortunate shadow is undoubtedly another factor in her now shaky frontrunner status.
Earlier this month the White House announced that the president will not endorse a candidate in the Democratic primary. All he repeated in his Politico interview was that his No. 1 priority is to ensure a Democrat succeeds him in office.