- 27 октября 2016, 12:09
- POLITICO. Top Stories
In what’s supposed to be an anti-establishment year, Barack Obama is feeling like the man.
The White House is mapping out the final two weeks until Election Day to take advantage of a president who all of a sudden everyone wants to see more of. Not only will he be out on the trail almost every day of the final week, but he’ll also be targeting millennials on late-night shows, online outlets and radio; taping more robo-calls and radio ads for the down-ballot candidates he’s prioritized; and hitting Donald Trump. He'll also be making the positive case for Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Democrats.
That’s a complete contrast from 2014 — when many candidates shunned Obama — and even to the most optimistic expectations the White House had going into the year. Aides weren’t expecting his approval rating to be nudging close to 60 percent — but these days point that out every chance they get.
Obama is having a really, really, really good time, loving the love, loving all the people now knocking on the White House doors appealing for his help — and he wants everyone to know it.
“You’re still fired up,” Obama said, as he entered to cheers in the backyard of one of his early donors Monday morning in La Jolla, California, looking out at the Pacific Ocean in front of him.
The polls help: He’s supercompetitive, and there’s nothing he likes more than winning. Except, maybe, a crowd going wild cheering for him. Or making fun of Trump. Or sticking it to the Republicans who did everything they could to attack him the past eight years, only to produce this campaign. Or most of all: watching all the things people said would sink his presidency — from Obamacare to the Iran nuclear deal and everything in between — looking like they’re all about to be cemented with Clinton being elected president.
Aides are bubbling. Longtime supporters feel like they’re finally getting the president they thought they elected eight years ago, cutting down and through his opponents, proudly talking about liberal policy and neither apologizing for it nor getting into the pragmatic talk about compromising.
Now he’s looking to drive it home.
In the campaign’s waning days, Obama will focus on “giving people something to vote for, not just against, and laying the groundwork for the road to uniting the country post-election,” a White House aide explained, as well as continuing “to speak out against bogus claims of the election being rigged.”
In private conversations through the spring, Obama would often gripe about wanting to get involved, angry that he had to hold back as Bernie Sanders’ strong primary campaign kept him directly out of the race until June, condemning Trump as a scolding president but not as a punchy politician.
“There’s some pent-up interest, you might say, in engaging in the debate,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest, sitting in the garage of a big donor hosting an event in California for the Senate candidates Obama’s trying to get elected off his popularity and Trump’s collapse. “Having an opportunity to travel across the country and address large, enthusiastic crowds who are clearly excited to see him out on the stump is fun. He gets a lot of energy from that.”
The West Coast swing Obama wrapped Tuesday night was another set of goodbyes in his long farewell — a special thank you and warm hug from Harry Reid when he landed in Las Vegas on Sunday night to campaign for the woman trying to hold the Senate seat of the man who’s been both his governing partner and almost surrogate grandfather, a trip to two La Jolla homes where he first raised money when he was a newbie senator not yet running for the White House, and then a coda on what is likely be his last trip to California as president by watching the sun set over Los Angeles from the living room of mega-donor turned pseudo friend Jeffrey Katzenberg, a Hollywood kingmaker who broke with the Clintons to support him in 2008. (That fundraiser was also the last Obama will do that was organized by his own team.)
But before he’s done, he’s got some scores to finish settling. There was pure joy in his eyes Sunday night as he tore into Darrell Issa, the congressman who launched a thousand investigations into the White House the past six years, only to brag about working with the president in a mailer now that he’s in danger of losing his seat. On Friday, he’ll be back in Florida to take more shots at Marco Rubio, the senator who was heralded as the next Obama but whom people close to him complain was a phony who stood for nothing. Plus, they like to point out, he lost.
In between, the president was putting a golf ball into a glass on the Oval Office carpet last week (he lost $5) or getting a backstage visit Monday at “Jimmy Kimmel Live” from Will Ferrell, in character as legendary Cubs announcer Harry Caray.
“You seem like you're in a good mood lately,” Kimmel noted during their interview a few minutes later.
Obama answered with jokes: a riff about eating mozzarella sticks, another ribbing Kimmel for giving his audience a hard time during the commercial breaks.
In private, Obama is gushing about the chances for down-ballot Democrats as he rides around in his limo between campaign events. In public, he’s going way off script, trashing Republicans he blames for getting in his way for the past eight years, even if that leads him into tricky territory, as when he seemed to conflate blackjack and poker in an extended card-game metaphor he tried out at the microphone in Las Vegas.
Asked whether Obama feels vindicated, Earnest — who’s been with Obama since he was campaigning in Iowa in 2007 — suppressed a smile.
“He feels good that the argument he is making to the country is resonating not just deeply in the Democratic base, but all across the country. That’s a very satisfying thing,” Earnest said. “The president is pleased about the current trajectory of the race.”
Bill Clinton’s presidential library in Arkansas sells “I miss Bill” bumper stickers. There were the “Miss me yet?” billboards and T-shirts with George W. Bush’s face on them.
Obama’s not waiting until he’s done to rub in what amounts to, You know you’re going to miss me.
"We can’t afford the other guy,” he’d told the overflow crowd outside the event in Las Vegas, to cheers for him, boos for Trump. “Can’t do that. Can’t do that. I’d feel really bad.”
He put down the microphone, leapt into shaking hands with the 500 people screaming for him, including one emotional woman in an electric blue shirt and pink sunglasses on her head pressed up against the metal barriers.
She couldn’t believe she got to touch him.
“I’m so happy,” she said, her hand over her heart, gushing to the people next to her. “He gave me a hug. He saw me crying.”
Boyz II Men had just finished their warm-up inside.
“Although we've come / To the end of the road,” they sang, with the crowd singing along with them. “Still I can't let go …”