President Obama is now praising Hillary Clinton as she continues her primary struggle with Sen. Bernie Sanders – but he’s cautious not to dismiss the avowed Democratic socialist’s success with primary voters.
In an interview with Politico’s Glenn Thrush, Obama repeatedly praised Clinton’s personality and intelligence, calling her “wicked smart” but also “warm and funny.”
Obama’s public comments come as Clinton supporters are alarmed by Sanders’ resurgence in polling of early states.
“I’ve gotten to know Hillary really well, and she is a good, smart, tough person who cares deeply about this country,” Obama said.
He admitted that Clinton was a bit “rusty” when she got back into the presidential campaign, but says she’s well equipped to be his successor.
“Her strengths, which are the fact that she’s extraordinarily experienced – and, you know, wicked smart and knows every policy inside and out,” he said, claiming she would be capable of governing the country on day one.
Obama also praised her for the ability to “project genuine concern in smaller groups and to interact with people, where folks realize she’s really warm and funny and engaging.”
He admitted that it was always difficult to run for office after being in politics for so long.
“She has been in the public eye for a long time and in a culture in which new is always better,” he said. “And, you know, you’re always looking at the bright, shiny object that people don’t, haven’t seen before. That’s a disadvantage to her.”
Obama explained that he understood how hard it was for her to campaign against him in 2008, but also signaled respect for his former Secretary of State.
“I’ll always remember the sheer strength, determination, endurance, stick-to-it-ness, never-give-up attitude that Hillary had during those primaries,” he said, adding that “she had to do everything that I had to do, except, like Ginger Rogers, backwards in heels.”
Obama said that Clinton could have easily won the Iowa caucuses in 2008.
“She had a tougher job throughout that primary than I did and, you know, she was right there the entire time and, had things gone a little bit different in some states or if the sequence of primaries and caucuses been a little different, she could have easily won,” he said.
He also admitted that he had a little help from the media – as the two candidates squared off.
“You know, there were times where I think the media probably was a little unfair to her and tilted a little my way,” he said.
Sanders, he argued, was benefiting from a similar advantage by being the new candidate in the primary with nothing to lose.
“I think that if Bernie won Iowa or won New Hampshire, then you guys are going to do your jobs and, you know, you’re going to dig into his proposals and how much they cost and what does it mean, and, you know, how does his tax policy work and he’s subjected, then, to a rigor that hasn’t happened yet, but that Hillary is very well familiar with.” he said.