Photo credit: Ben Baker/REDUX, Politico
Photo credit: Ben Baker/REDUX, Politico

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.

In a candid 40-minute interview for POLITICO’s Off Message podcast, the President couldn’t hide his inclination towards the former Secretary, whom he seems to suggest better understands the pragmatic demands of a presidency in what he likened to “the world’s most challenging walk-and-chew-gum exercise”.

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.

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.

The caucuses have a fierce-urgency-of-now quality as Obama reckons with the end of his presidency, the Democratic candidate has to secure his as-yet unsecured legacy,  as well as keep Donald Trump or Ted Cruz or somebody else from undoing much of what he has done. And he was convinced Clinton was that candidate, prior to the emergence of Sanders.


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