Obama Says He's "Confident" He Could Have Won in 2016

NPR
President Obama

Speaking of his hope and change platform, the president said, "I think I could've mobilized a majority of the American people" if he had been eligible to run again.

Despite the contentious election cycle and its stunning results, President Barack Obama says he is "confident" that his platform of "hope and change" would have won him the 2016 presidency if he had been eligible to run.

Obama, who was speaking hypothetically about going up against Donald Trump, since it would have been for a third term, told his former senior adviser, David Axelrod, why he believes his message still resonates on Monday’s Axe Files podcast.

"The Democratic agenda is better for all working people," said Obama, adding that the idea that Democrats have abandoned the white working class is "nonsense" and that the Affordable Care Act benefits "a huge number" of Trump voters. "Education, family leave, community colleges, making it easier for unions to organize, that's an agenda for working class Americans of all stripes."

Obama admitted that it's a problem the Democratic party has failed to communicate both policy and that the party cares to places like West Virginia and Kentucky.

"There's an emotional connection, and part of what we have to do to rebuild is to be there," he said about being involved in state parties and local races. 

Obama then said that in the wake of Trump's election, "a lot of people" have suggested that the values of his hope and change platform, launched in 2008, were a "fantasy."

"What I would argue is that the culture actually did shift, that the majority does buy into the notion of one America that is tolerant and diverse and open and full of energy and dynamism," he said. "The problem is, it doesn't always manifest itself in politics, right?"

He continued, "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. 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 toward is the right one."

On Monday afternoon, Trump, who has spoken positively about Obama in recent weeks, responded to the interview on Twitter.

"President Obama said that he thinks he would have won against me," tweeted the president-elect. "He should say that but I say NO WAY! - jobs leaving, ISIS, OCare, etc."

During his wide-ranging interview on Monday, Obama also defended Hillary Clinton, saying she "performed wonderfully under really tough circumstances."

"I've said this publicly, I'll repeat it: I think there was a double standard with her," he said of the Democratic presidential candidate. "For whatever reason, there's been a long-standing difficulty in her relationship with the press that meant her flaws were wildly amplified relative to [Trump's]."

He added that it's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback: "Understandably, I think she looked and said, 'Well, given my opponent and the things he's saying and what he's doing, we should focus on that.' "

Obama again expressed his plans to step aside come Jan. 20 and let the new leadership take form.

He said his long-term interest is to help build the next generation of leaders by encouraging the 20- and 30-year-old organizers, journalists and politicians to put their idealism to productive use. Short term, however, he won't be "the old guy at the bar who's just hanging around reliving old glories."

"My intentions on January 21 [are] to sleep, take my wife on a nice vacation — and she has said it better be nice," he said. He also plans to pen a book. "I'm gonna start thinking about the first book I want to write."

He continued, "I have to be quiet for a while, internally. I have to still myself.... You have to get back in tune with your center and process what's happened before you make a bunch of good decisions."

He concluded by stressing again how he plans to move aside to make room for "new voices and fresh legs."

"The day-to-day scrum," he said, "not only is it contrary to tradition for the ex-president to be involved in that, but I also think it would inhibit the development of those new voices. And I know they're out there; I've seen them."

Listen to the podcast and see the full transcript on CNN here.

Dec. 26, 4:40 p.m. Updated with Trump tweet.

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