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Obama Says He Would Have Won A Third Term Had He Run

President Obama, joined by first lady Michelle Obama, thanks service members and their families at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, in Kaneohe Bay, Christmas Day.
Carolyn Kaster
President Obama, joined by first lady Michelle Obama, thanks service members and their families at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, in Kaneohe Bay, Christmas Day.

In an interview released Monday, President Obama expressed confidence that he would have won the 2016 election had it been possible for him to seek a third term.

The president's remarks were hypothetical: The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution limits presidents to two terms in office.

Obama made his remarks to The Axe Files, the podcast of his former adviser David Axelrod, now director of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.

The president argued that a majority of Americans continue to support his progressive vision for the country.

"I am confident in this vision, because I'm confident that if I had run again and articulated it, I think I could have mobilized a majority of the American people to rally behind it," the president said.

"I know that in conversations that I've had with people around the country," he continued, "even some people who disagreed with me, they would say, 'The vision, the direction that you point towards is the right one.' "

President-elect Trump responded via Twitter that he would not have lost a contest with Obama.

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

Obama had praise for the Democratic nominee: "I think that Hillary Clinton performed wonderfully under really tough circumstances."

But he suggested that Clinton, sure of victory, "played it safe," and missed opportunities to present a narrative that would have appealed to voters.

Obama also offered criticism of Democrats more broadly, in which he included himself, for failing to convince voters they had benefited from his agenda.

"I think the issue was less that Democrats have somehow abandoned the white working class," said the president. "I think that's nonsense. Look, the Affordable Care Act benefits a huge number of Trump voters.

"The problem is is that we're not there on the ground communicating not only the dry policy aspects of this but that we care about these communities, we're bleeding for these communities."

Obama also expressed grudging admiration for the success of Republican efforts during his time in office to counter his vision for the country.

"[Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell's insight, which I've said 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," Obama said.

"His insight was that, 'We just have to say no to that. And if we can just throw sand in the gears, then at a time of deep economic crisis when people are really stressed, really worried ... that if we just say no, that that will puncture the balloon, that all this talk about hope and change, no red state and blue state, is proven to be a mirage, a fantasy.' "

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Katkov