Eight years ago, Hillary Clinton bowed out of the race for the Democratic nomination for President. In doing so, she pledged her support to Barack Obama.
No doubt the President vividly recalls the words of support which Clinton bestowed on him during her 2008 concession speech, noting at the time “life is too short … to dwell on what might have been,” and asking her supporters to get behind the man who had beat her:
“I have been in this campaign with him for 16 months. I have stood on the stage and gone toe-to-toe with him in 22 debates. I’ve had a front-row seat to his candidacy, and I have seen his strength and determination, his grace and his grit….[We must] do all we can to help elect Barack Obama.”
Today, Obama returned the favor.
In a video posted to YouTube, the President said:
“I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office.”
Riding a wave of approval, Obama’s backing of Clinton, while not surprising, could be an even bigger boost to the candidate, who last night became the presumptive Democratic nominee.
Per Gallup, Obama’s approval rating is holding in the low-50s, and he’s crept into the mid-60s with 18-29 year olds, a demographic with which Clinton has trouble connecting. Obama is more popular at this point in his presidency than George W. Bush was by 20 percentage points.(Image credit: Gallup)
On Sunday, a CBS News/YouGov poll had the candidates neck-and-neck, with Clinton at 49% and Sanders at 47%.
But no matter the numbers, Sanders’ chances of getting Obama’s support looked grim as early as Sunday evening, when, according to CNN, the President reportedly had a phone call with the candidate.
On Monday at the White House daily briefing, Obama spokesman Josh Earnest gave even more indication the President would be in Clinton’s corner, and that a public endorsement was imminent:
“I think we’ll continue to watch the situation. We’re going to give Democratic voters the opportunity to weigh in. But certainly, somebody who claims a majority of the pledged and superdelegates has a strong case to make.”
Earnest also predicted Obama’s popularity will be put to good use, presumably for Clinton, in the contentious fight against Donald Trump:
“The President intends, certainly through the fall, if not earlier, to engage in this campaign and to engage in this debate about the future of our country. And that’s an opportunity that the President relishes.
I would also point out that this actually puts the President in a relatively unique place in our history. It’s been at least a generation, if not longer, since you had a two-term President in his final year in office in demand by party leaders, including by the party nominee, on the campaign trail.”
Obama’s most potent strengths might indeed lie in his campaigning skills; with rolled up sleeves and no tie, the President is at his most powerful, and, some experts say, his most effective.
He is expected to begin that campaigning next week in Wisconsin, where he will join Clinton on the campaign trail.