President Barack Obama, probably feeling a little puffed up from his high approval ratings and President-elect Donald Trump’s rocky start, is certain he would have won a third term in the White House, had be been permitted to run.
“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,” he told David Axelrod, his former chief strategist, during an interview on CNN’s “The Axe Files” podcast.
“I know that in conversations that I’ve had with people around the country,” he added, “even some people who disagreed with me, they would say the vision, the direction that you point towards is the right one.”
Following Trump’s unexpected victory last month over Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Obama said many voters are concerned his 2008 “hope and change” was a “fantasy” — something the outgoing president apparently believed was still alive and well until 2016.
“In the wake of the election and Trump winning, a lot of people have suggested that somehow, it really was a fantasy,” Obama said of his 2008 message. “What I would argue is, is that the culture actually did shift, that the majority does buy into the notion of a one America that is tolerant and diverse and open and full of energy and dynamism.”
Obama suggested Clinton didn’t work hard enough to win over white, working-class voters who don’t feel they’ve benefitted economically under his eight-year administration.
“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,” he told Axelrod. “It means caring about local races, state boards or school boards and city councils and state legislative races and not thinking that somehow, just a great set of progressive policies that we present to the New York Times editorial board will win the day.”
Obama said the Democratic leadership needs to focus on developing young leaders who can organize voters behind progressive policies.
As for what the president plans to do when he’s out of the job on Jan. 20, Obama said he needs to work on lowering his own profile. He said he’ll spend time writing a book and examining his two terms in the Oval Office.
“I have to be quiet for a while. And I don’t mean politically, I mean internally. I have to still myself,” he said. “You have to get back in tune with your center and process what’s happened before you make a bunch of good decisions.”
But that doesn’t mean he’s planning to stay out of politics. Unlike his predecessor, George W. Bush, who vowed not to undermine the next president with criticism, Obama said he feels a responsibility to weigh in on Trump’s administration.
“At a certain point, you make room for new voices and fresh legs,” Obama said. “That doesn’t mean that if a year from now, or a year-and-a-half from now, or two years from now, there is an issue of such moment, such import, that isn’t just a debate about a particular tax bill or, you know, a particular policy, but goes to some foundational issues about our democracy that I might not weigh in.”
“You know, I’m still a citizen,” he continued, “and that carries with it duties and obligations.”