President Obama recently appeared on an episode of Politico’s “Off The Message” podcast, and the 40-minute conversation revolved largely around the Democratic candidates and the upcoming election.
While Obama initially contemplated the process of democracy and campaigning in Iowa, the dialogue soon turned to an examination of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, their perceived personas, and their chances for the White House. Obama was diplomatic in his analysis, but the underlying message was transparent: he believes Hillary is the more qualified candidate.
Interviewer Glenn Thrush noted that many people compare Sanders’s message as analogous to the hope and change banner Obama ran under in 2008. When asked about this, Obama was not too keen to make the parallel:
“Well there’s no doubt that Bernie has tapped into a running thread in democratic politics that says …Why is it that we should be scared to challenge conventional wisdom and talk bluntly about inequality, and you know, be forward in our progressivism. And that has an appeal and I understand that.”
He contrasted this idealism with more tangible prospects of Hillary’s presidency: “What Hillary presents is a recognition that translating values into government and delivering the goods is ultimately the job of politics—making a real life difference to people in their day to day lives."
More directly, Thrush commented that for many, “[Sanders] is an analog for you,” to which Obama responded, “I don’t think that’s true.”
Obama attributed Sanders’s popularity to his status as an underdog, whereas “Hillary came in with the both privilege and burden of being the perceived frontrunner. … You’re always looking at the bright, shiny object that people haven’t seen before — that’s a disadvantage to her.”
The president also posed questions concerning the viability of Sanders’s policies.
“If he wins Iowa and New Hampshire…he’s subjected to a rigor that hasn’t happened yet,” said Obama, implying that Sanders may not hold up under the scrutiny.
Hillary has been tying herself to Obama’s presidency as of late, claiming she will continue much of what he began, and the link between the two is even clearer in Obama’s subtle endorsement of her.