Obama's Exit Interview: Hope and Change Can Still Win Elections

Style Magazine Newswire | 12/26/2016, 7:35 a.m.
Arguing that Americans still subscribe to his vision of progressive change, President Barack Obama asserted in an interview recently he ...
Arguing that Americans still subscribe to his vision of progressive change, President Barack Obama asserted in an interview recently he could have succeeded in this year's election if he was eligible to run.

By Kevin Liptak

CNN White House Producer

(CNN) -- Arguing that Americans still subscribe to his vision of progressive change, President Barack Obama asserted in an interview recently he could have succeeded in this year's election if he was eligible 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," Obama told his former senior adviser David Axelrod in an interview for the "The Axe Files" podcast, 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 the interview, which aired Monday.

"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 the hope-and-change vision he heralded in 2008. "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."

Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton won a majority of the vote in the 2016 contest. Clinton beat Trump in the popular vote by almost 2.9 million ballots, though Trump won more electoral votes and thus the presidency.

In the 50-minute session, Obama repeated his suggestion Democrats had ignored entire segments of the voting population, leading to Donald Trump's win. He implied that Hillary Clinton's campaign hadn't made a vocal enough argument directed toward Americans who haven't felt the benefits of the economic recovery.

"If you think you're winning, then you have a tendency, just like in sports, maybe to play it safer," he said, adding later he believed Clinton "performed wonderfully under really tough circumstances" and was mistreated by the media.

The podcast interview was Obama's latest post-election analysis, which has focused on Democrats' failure to convince non-urban voters and a media preoccupied with negative stories about Clinton. Obama said his party this year hadn't made an emotional connection to voters in hard-hit communities, relying instead on policy points he said didn't make enough of an impact.

"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 said. "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 cited an unlikely model for future Democratic success: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who he said had executed an effective -- if obstructionist -- strategy.

"Mitch McConnell's insight, just from a pure tactical perspective, was pretty smart and well executed, the degree of discipline that he was able to impose on his caucus was impressive. His insight was that we just have to say no to that," Obama said.