It’s been a while since a second-term president was popular enough to be a fixture in his would-be successor’s general-election campaign. George W. Bush had presided over too many disastrous wars and economic collapses to be of use to John McCain in 2008; Bill Clinton had lied about too many blow jobs to do much for Al Gore in 2000.
But in 2016, more than half of America is missing Barack Obama before he’s even gone. Over the past few months, the president has enjoyed above 50-percent approval on a consistent basis for the first time in years, making him an unambiguous asset for Hillary Clinton’s fall campaign. And the New York Times reports that Obama is more than ready hit the stump:
Advisers say that the president, who sees a Democratic successor as critical to his legacy, is impatient to begin campaigning. They say he is taking nothing for granted.
“I want us to run scared the whole time,” Mr. Obama told a group of donors on Friday night in Miami.
Obama’s eagerness makes sense. A Republican president with a conservative Congress could undo virtually everything he’s worked to achieve in the last eight years. And then, of course, it wouldn’t be just any Republican president, but rather the incompetent racist who spent most of Obama’s first term trying to delegitimize his election by questioning the validity of his birth certificate. Aides tell the Times that the president is “particularly enthusiastic” about “taking on Mr. Trump.”
The president’s enthusiasm isn’t too surprising, but the timing of the Times story may be significant. On Tuesday, the final state primaries will be held and Clinton will clinch a majority of pledged delegates. Bernie Sanders has vowed to take his campaign to the convention regardless, hoping to convince Democratic superdelegates that his superior performance in head-to-head polls with Trump is cause for overturning the will of the party’s voters. If Obama decides to endorse — and declare the primary effectively over — it will be more difficult for Sanders to sustain his quixotic bid for the nomination.
Last week in Elkhart, Indiana, Obama indicated that such an endorsement might be forthcoming, saying that after Tuesday the party would have a “pretty good sense of who the nominee will end up being.”
“I expect that he’ll be a force for trying to move this process along so the party can consolidate and unify,” former senior Obama adviser David Axelrod told the Times.
On Monday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest was asked why the president would not weigh in on the Democratic contest Wednesday.
“Well, I don’t know,” Earnest replied with a smile. “Maybe he will.”