clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

In his interview with Politico, Obama took a not-so-subtle dig at Bernie Sanders

Barack Obama stands behind Bernie Sanders in a 2007 photo.
Barack Obama stands behind Bernie Sanders in a 2007 photo.
Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty Images

Bernie Sanders's backers like to call him the Barack Obama of 2016, an underdog candidate trying to create a new version of American politics.

One person disagrees: Barack Obama.

"I don't think that's true," Obama said in an interview with Politico when asked if Sanders's run in Iowa reminded him of his 2008 campaign.

In the Politico interview, Obama gave the most in-depth thoughts he's offered about the 2016 Democratic primary — overtly praising Hillary Clinton while offering a more skeptical view of Sanders.

Though Obama didn't outright endorse Clinton, his praise is a clear boon for her a week before the Iowa caucuses.

"I think that what Hillary presents is a recognition that translating values into governance and delivering the goods is ultimately the job of politics, making a real-life difference to people in their day-to-day lives," Obama said in an interview published on Monday with Politico's Glenn Thrush.

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Obama calls Clinton "wicked smart," says she has been unfairly scrutinized

Obama didn't criticize Bernie Sanders in the interview but at several points supported the Clinton campaign's case that she is the true heir to the president's legacy.

Obama took at least two tactics in supporting Clinton:

  • Calling her "extraordinarily experienced" and "wicked smart," Obama praised the work of Clinton, pointing out that her experience in politics can make her more cautious than most.

    The president said Clinton is facing "unfair scrutiny" during this race, and noted that his 2008 supporters and staff may have been "too huffy" about the questions Clinton's campaign raised at the time.

    "I think Hillary came in with the both privilege — and burden — of being perceived as the frontrunner," Obama said. "You’re always looking at the bright, shiny object that people haven’t seen before — that's a disadvantage to her."
  • Obama echoed at least one criticism of Sanders by stressing that whoever occupies the Oval Office can't be limited to focusing on one issue.

    Some of Sanders's critics have said the Vermont senator is too concentrated on campaign finance reform, and lacks sufficiently detailed views on foreign policy.

    "[The] one thing everybody understands is that this job right here, you don’t have the luxury of just focusing on one thing," Obama told Politico.

Clinton has adopted a strategy of fully embracing the president's legacy, and Obama seems to be reciprocating the idea that she's the true heir to his legacy.

Clinton has been embracing Obama so fully now in part because he is so popular with liberals — his approval rating is 83 percent among Democrats.

The president's remarks also stand to bolster Clinton's support among African-American voters, about 89 percent of whom approve of Obama. This could play a crucial role in the early primary state of South Carolina, which is far more diverse than either Iowa or New Hampshire.

Be sure to subscribe to Vox on YouTube for more explainer videos

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.