President Obama continued on his friendly exit interview tour, telling former adviser and longtime friend David Axelrod that he could have won another term in office. “I am confident in this vision because I’m confident that if I had run again and articulated it, I think I could’ve mobilized a majority of the American people to rally behind it,” Obama told Axelrod, who hosts the Axe Files podcast, which is produced by the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN. “I know that in conversations that I’ve had with people around the country, even some people who disagreed with me, they would say the vision, the direction that you point towards is the right one,” Obama said.
In what amounted to some of his harshest public criticism of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Obama said the former secretary of state and her aides made mistakes because they saw victory as a done deal. “If you think you’re winning, then you have a tendency, just like in sports, maybe to play it safer,” he said. Despite the criticism of her campaign, Obama also praised Clinton, saying she “performed wonderfully under really tough circumstances.”
Donald Trump took to Twitter on Monday afternoon to say that there’s “NO WAY!” Obama could have beaten him at the polls because of “jobs leaving, ISIS, OCare, etc.”
Axelrod tells the Washington Post Obama did appear to go further than before in criticizing the failures of Clinton’s campaign. “This was all in service of making the point that he believes that his progressive vision and the vision he ran on is still a majority view in this country,” Axelrod said. “He chooses to be hopeful about the future.”
In the interview, Obama said he doesn’t buy the argument that “Democrats have somehow abandoned the white working class—I think that’s nonsense.” The problem is Democrats aren’t making the sorts of emotional connections with voters that are needed beyond good policy. “We’re not there on the ground communicating not only the dry policy aspects of this, but that we care about these communities, that we’re bleeding for these communities,” Obama said.
Although the departing president said he won’t get involved in the day-to-day pushback against his successor, that doesn’t mean he won’t weigh in on certain issues if he thinks they’re particularly important. “You know, I’m still a citizen and that carries with it duties and obligations,” he said.
Obama’s interview aired days after the Los Angeles Times published an exit interview with Vice President Joe Biden, who was overall harsher on the Democratic Party and Clinton’s campaign. Biden said that “there’s a bit of elitism that’s crept in” to the party, noting that “we were not letting an awful lot of people—high school-educated, mostly Caucasian, but also people of color—know that we understood their problems.”