Elections

Obama: Clinton faces ‘privilege and burden’ of being front-runner

President Barack Obama walks from Marine One as he arrives on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 25, 2016, after a trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., to visit with wounded service members.
President Barack Obama walks from Marine One as he arrives on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 25, 2016, after a trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., to visit with wounded service members. AP

President Barack Obama said in interview published Monday that his former rival-turned-secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, faces both the “privilege and burden” of being the Democratic front-runner for president.

Obama, who had been careful to stay out of the Democratic primary, told Politico for the “Off Message” podcast that Clinton’s chief rival, Bernie Sanders, has benefited from being the underdog.

“Bernie came in with the luxury of being a complete long shot and just letting loose,” Obama said in his most extensive remarks on the race. “I think Hillary came in with the both privilege – and burden – of being perceived as the front-runner . . . you’re always looking at the bright, shiny object that people haven’t seen before – that’s a disadvantage to her.”

But, Obama said, Sanders could face the same scrutiny if he wins the early nominating states of Iowa or New Hampshire, which polls indicate he may do.

“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,” Obama said of the media, “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.”

The president dismissed comparisons to the 2008 race between Clinton and him, even though several political observers have said Sanders draws the same enthusiasm to knock out the front-runner. “I don’t think that’s true,” Obama said.

Politico’s Glenn Thrush said Obama “couldn’t hide his obvious affection for Clinton” though the president did remain neutral in the race. “I have not been trying to kibitz and stick my nose into every aspect of their strategy,” he said.

In the interview, Obama praised all Democratic candidates and said Republicans had moved farther to the right after John McCain ran for president in 2008.

“Ultimately any voter is going to have to pay attention is the degree to which the Republican rhetoric and Republican vision has moved not just to the right but has moved to a place that is unrecognizable.”

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