No American president has passionately campaigned for a chosen successor in recent years as President Barack Obama did penultimate Tuesday in North Carolina for his former secretary of state and onetime political arch-rival, Hillary Clinton. Adeola Akinremi, in New York, writes that Obama seeks to protect not just his legacy but also break the succession barrier of many years
Shoulder-to-shoulder, America’s President Barack Obama and Democratic Party’s anointed presidential candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton, arrived in North Carolina on a recent Tuesday with cheers and chant. The stump speeches came moment after they both stepped off Air Force One together in a camaraderie atmosphere at a place, where they were once political foes.
In 2008, when Clinton faced Obama in a Democratic nomination race, North Carolina was a place of negative speeches, but now it has turned to a place of positive speeches, where Obama is rooting for Mrs. Clinton’s victory during the November election. The star power and political gusto of President Obama once more fascinated political watchers across the United States as he told the world, “I am ready to pass the baton.”
For Mrs. Clinton, it was a moment to savour on a day the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) described her judgment in the handling of classified material as secretary of state as “extremely careless.”
As she stepped off the Air Force One in company with Obama, Mrs. Clinton beamed with smiles, revealing unusual confidence.
Clearly, the frenetic campaign that saw her overcome the shadow of doubts placed in her way through mudslinging and embarrassing barrage of attacks that initially pinned the blame of a broken system in Washington on her and her tie to “big money interests” by her arch-rival in the Democratic primary, Bernie Sanders, may be giving way to a collective journey to victory for the Democrats as the party rallied behind her candidacy.
But Mrs. Clinton will still have to overcome the Donald Trump storm in the coming months as the Republicans struggle to unite behind Mr. Trump’s candidacy for the GOP. Interestingly, the odds still favours Clinton to win the November election. For instance, President Obama’s desire to see his legacy protected and the transition of government from Democrat to Democrat is one of many reasons Mrs. Clinton will enjoy unusual support from Obama during this campaign season.
Already, President Obama has said: “I am ready to pass the baton and I know Hillary Clinton is going to take it. There has never been any man or woman more qualified for this office than Hillary Clinton.”
As part of his plans, Obama hopes to push the words around the country for Clinton to help her cross the finishing line with ease despite the obstacle posed by her Republican challenger, Trump.
The barrier that Obama seeks to break is not an easy one. Since 1963, when Lyndon Johnson succeeded John Kennedy as president after the later was assassinated, no Democratic president has ever been fortunate to hand over government to another. The Republicans have enjoyed that many times prior to and after 1969.
In 2000, President Bill Clinton was closer to recording the feat that Obama hankers for after his vice, Al Gore, successfully received the nomination of his party as a candidate but the Monica Lewinsky scandal that nearly brought Clinton’s government down made it impossible for him to stump for Mr. Gore. Mr. Gore according to reports avoided making public appearance with Clinton during most part of his campaigns.
Gore deliberately distanced himself from Clinton, who became frustrated at Mr. Gore’s inability to relate to an audience effortlessly as he would have during campaigns. But President Clinton’s eagerness to help couldn’t go beyond his acceptance by Gore to do so.
Specifically, the same day Mr. Gore officially confirmed his candidacy in June 1999, ABC News put out an interview in which Mr. Gore frequently detached himself from the president, expressing disappointment over Mr. Clinton’s conduct with Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern with whom he had an affair.
New York Times reported that “after eight years together, here is the state of the relationship between President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore: Mr. Gore won’t pick up the phone. He doesn’t call, and Mr. Clinton doesn’t know why. … Mr. Clinton is both hurt by the personal rebuff and bewildered as to why his political heir won’t come to him for the advice he is itching to give – advice the president feels the candidate needs, according to two friends who have discussed this with Mr. Clinton recently.
“Mr. Clinton feels frustrated, eager to help but unwilling to insert himself where he’s not wanted, say the friends, who have discussed this with him. It’s beyond him why Mr. Gore can’t manage to relate to an audience in the way that comes so effortlessly to him. And he’s convinced that Mr. Gore moved too slowly to capitalise on his successful convention performance, in the president’s view, running away from him when he ought to be running on their record.”
Now, with a legacy to protect and the opportunity of a lifetime to have a Democrat president hand over to another as the Republicans continue to suspect the Trump candidacy, Obama is starting the journey early with Mrs. Clinton.
According to Caitlin Huey-Burns, a national political reporter for America’s political news website, RealClearPolitics, “Perhaps no Democrat has the mobilising potential of Obama, who endorsed Clinton after the California primary last month and has been eager to return to the campaign trail to protect and promote his legacy.
“Unlike two years ago, when vulnerable Democrats up for re-election in a midterm year kept their distance from the president, Obama is now a vaunted surrogate, with an approval rating hovering around 50 per cent, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average, a remarkably high rating for a second term incumbent in a general election year.”
So, with Clinton campaigning as a successor to Obama’s legacy, North Carolina voters welcomed her with both hands. Clinton is hoping to build upon the winning diverse coalitions that Obama cultivated in 2008 and in 2012. The strategy helped her sweep Southern primary states with high African-American turnout. Many key members of the Obama campaign and administration are now working for Clinton’s presidential bid.
This year, just like in the past, North Carolina will be a battleground state. Obama challenged the status quo in 2008, when he won the state for Democratic Party after three decades of failed efforts. But in 2012, the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, carried the state, when Democrat lost the state again by 2 percentage margin. It is one reason why North Carolina is critical: high percentage of African-American voters and an influx of young people and minorities to the state.
The huge turnout of this group often helps Democrats coast home to victory during elections, but where they fail to come out on the Election Day, the Republicans naturally win their contests.
The demography in North Carolina has become a magnet for the Clinton campaign to take the state away from the Republican. On one hand, the growing Latino population that has broadened the state’s diversity is an advantage for Clinton to take and on the other hand, the recent controversial “pee where your sex is” bathroom law pushed by the Republican legislature that appeared discriminatory to the LGBT community is an incentive for Mrs. Clinton to go to North Carolina anticipating a great win in the state during the presidential election.
For his part, President Obama has been quite keen to campaign against Trump for many reasons. The GOP presumptive nominee had once challenged Obama’s American citizenship and had forced the president to bring out his birth certificate in 2011. Also, Obama has criticised Mr. Trump’s bigotry in several of his speeches without mentioning his name.
But with campaigns coming to a full throttle after parties hold their conventions sometime this month, Obama is expected to go all out against Trump using words to define him and emphasising his weaknesses to voters in a stop Trump movement.
In June, while reacting to Trump’s speech in the aftermath of shooting in Orlando Florida, Obama said the GOP’s presumptive nominee carries with him a “dangerous” mindset capable of pulling America into the abyss.
“We hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complicit in violence. Are we going to start treating all Muslim-Americans differently? Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminating against them because of their faith?
“Do Republican officials actually agree with this? Because that’s not the America we want — it doesn’t reflect our democratic ideals. It won’t make us more safe…It will make us less safe. We’ve gone through moments in our history before where we acted out of fear, and we came to regret it. We’ve seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens, and it has been a shameful part of our history,” Obama said with fury.
All set, Mrs. Clinton will still have to overcome many huddles of doubts, even as Americans pay close attention to her words versus Trump’s ahead of November. But with Obama running on a straight line to help Clinton make it to the White House in a race with many other strong stakeholders on either side of the parties, the battlefield will be full of surprises.
So far, Mrs. Clinton has survived all knives from Benghazi probe to private email account, but her frying pan to fire experience is far from being over as her political foes continue to link her to other family scandals like the Whitewater, a failed family real estate investment that ultimately led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton on December 19, 1998.
A divided House of Representatives had impeached President Clinton based on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice and recommended virtually along party lines that the Senate remove him from office, though no evidence suggested any act of wrongdoing on the part of the Clintons.
To finish strong, Mrs. Clinton will have to keep track of the source of the multiple attacks and that in itself is an arduous task in an election year. But Obama is very clear in pointing out that “Hillary’s got her share of critics. That’s what happens when you’ve fought for what you believe in. That’s what happens when you dedicate yourselves to public service over the course of a lifetime. And what sets Hillary apart from so many others is she never stopped caring. She never stopped trying.”
For Obama, this year’s election is as critical as the race he ran in 2008 and 2012 and that’s his message to every American anywhere he goes. The line was obvious when he said to a mammoth crowd in Charlotte that: “I’m here today because I believe in Hillary Clinton. I want you to help elect her the next president of the United States of America.”
It will be clearer where the pendulum swings with Gallup polls after the conventions and as November draws near, but polls sometimes don’t reflect voters’ mind. Ultimately, the result of the election will determine who occupies the White House from January 20, 2017, between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump.
President Obama’s desire to see his legacy protected and the transition of government from Democrat to Democrat is one of many reasons Mrs. Clinton will enjoy unusual support from Obama during this campaign season…The barrier that Obama seeks to break is not an easy one. Since 1963, when Lyndon Johnson succeeded John Kennedy as president after the later was assassinated, no Democratic president has ever been fortunate to hand over government to another. The Republicans have enjoyed that many times prior to and after 1969