During a lengthy interview with Politico published on Monday, President Obama subtly went to bat for Hillary Clinton, noting that the former secretary of state is “idealistic and progressive” and has “more experience than any non-vice president” who has ever run for president.
In comparing Clinton with her main rival in the Democratic presidential primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Obama told Politico that “they’re both passionate about giving everybody a shot.”
He said that Sanders’ message “has an appeal.”
“There’s no doubt that Bernie has tapped into a running thread in Democratic politics that says, ‘Why are we still constrained by the terms of the debate that were set by Ronald Reagan?'” Obama said.
But he then described Clinton as an experienced, battle-tested candidate who has survived “taking so many slings and arrows from the other side.”
“I think 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.
And when asked if Sanders could be compared to Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama said, “I don’t think that’s true.”
He also told Politico that Sanders has benefited from his status as the underdog candidate.
“I think Bernie came in with the luxury of being a complete long shot and just letting loose,” he said. “I think Hillary came in with the both privilege — and burden — of being perceived as the front-runner.”
“You’re always looking at the bright, shiny object that people haven’t seen before — that’s a disadvantage to her,” Obama added later in the interview with Politico.
When asked if the scrutiny Clinton has been under during the 2016 campaign so far is “unfair,” Obama said it was, but added that “Hillary’s tough and she has been through this before.”
He later added that his 2008 campaign and the media during that presidential election were perhaps “unfair” to Clinton as well.
“She had to do everything that I had to do, except, like Ginger Rogers, backwards in heels,” Obama told Politico about his race against Hillary in 2008. “She had to wake up earlier than I did because she had to get her hair done. She had to, you know, handle all the expectations that were placed on her. She had a tougher job throughout that primary than I did.”
Politico’s Glenn Thrush also asked Obama if Sanders’ campaign has been too narrowly focused.
“Well, I don’t want to play political consultant, because obviously what he’s doing is working. I will say that the longer you go in the process, the more you’re going to have to pass a series of hurdles that the voters are going to put in front of you,” Obama replied. “Because the one thing everybody understands is that this job right here, you don’t have the luxury of just focusing on one thing.”
And when asked about Clinton’s strengths and weaknesses, Obama said that Clinton’s experience, while a strength, has proved detrimental at times.
“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,” he told Politico. “But those are also her strengths. It means that she can govern, and she can start here day one.”