What an Obama endorsement will mean for Hillary

Barack Obama is about to tell Bernie Sanders that the
revolution stops now.
On Tuesday evening Mr Obama called Hillary Clinton to
congratulate her on securing enough delegates to “clinch”
the Democratic nomination.
He also called Bernie Sanders to thank him for his hard-
fought campaign. At the Vermont senator’s request, the two
will have a meeting on Thursday to discuss “how to build on
the extraordinary work he has done to engage millions of
Democratic voters”, in the words of a White House press
In other words, it’s time to wrap things up and unite the
party behind Mrs Clinton. The president is the leader of the
Democratic Party, and it’s his legacy on the line. Continued
acrimony within the ranks will only complicate matters.
Now it’s only a matter of time before Mr Obama formally
endorses Mrs Clinton and hits the campaign trail to support
He’s reportedly itching to enter the political fray one more
time and take aim at Donald Trump, who he sees as
disparaging the coalition of voters that propelled him to the
So when Mr Obama endorses Mrs Clinton, how much of a
boost will it give his former secretary of state? And will it
come in the right places?
Here’s a look at where Mrs Clinton needs the most help –
and what Mr Obama’s endorsement could do for her.
Click to see content: sanders_after
The success of Bernie Sanders’s insurgent, anti-
establishment primary campaign has shown that Mrs Clinton
has weakness on her left flank.
For instance, in New York – a state Mrs Clinton won
convincingly – Mr Sanders carried “very liberal” voters 56%
to 44% in exit polls. National polls have tracked close to that
margin, as well.
Mr Sanders has won the hearts of many a liberal by
promising free college education, single-payer healthcare
and Wall Street reform, and he’s condemned international
trade deals. Mrs Clinton was not nearly as ambitious in her
proposed agenda – instead stressing incremental advances –
and her supporters were seldom as enthusiastic.
Mr Obama defeated Mrs Clinton in the 2008 Democratic
primaries in part by rallying the most liberal voters to his
side. Since then, however, some of those supporters – the
ones who have since moved into Mr Sanders’ camp – have
expressed disillusionment with his inability to enact a
sweeping progressive agenda.
The president, however, is still extremely popular among all
Democrats, including liberals. When he talks, they’ll listen.
Will he help? Yes. But the endorsement of someone like
Senator Elizabeth Warren, a progressive heroine, is what
could really carry the day.
Click to see content: youth_chart
Young voters were a key part of the coalition that not only
helped Mr Obama win the Democratic nomination in 2008
but also powered him to two general election victories.
Against Mitt Romney in 2012, Mr Obama carried 67% of the
vote. The 18-to-29 age group still gives the president some of
his highest approval ratings.
This year young voters have been providing Mr Sanders with
eye-popping margins. In the 2008 primaries Mr Obama won
60% of the under-30 vote. This year the Vermont senator has
carried fully 71% of that age group – making him, according
to Princeton Prof Matt Karp, “probably the most popular
young people’s candidate in US history”.
Young people can be very suspicious of attempts to move
their opinion when it comes to commercial advertising, so
Mr Obama’s endorsement will have to carefully crafted to
avoid seeming like a sales pitch. Given his track record,
however, he should be able to pull it off.
Will he help? Mrs Clinton needs all the Obama cool that he
can offer.
Blacks and Hispanics were another key portion of Mr
Obama’s winning coalition, and Mrs Clinton will need robust
turnout from these voters again – particularly in key
electoral battlegrounds like Florida, North Carolina and
Virginia – if she wants to replicate the president’s success.
Unlike the previous two categories, minority voters have
been a source of strength for Mrs Clinton throughout the
primaries. The black vote in particular propelled her to
massive wins across the South that gave her a lead over Mr
Sanders that she never relinquished.
Where Mr Obama’s support will help, however, is in turnout.
Black voters set a record high turnout in 2008 at 69%. In
2012 it dropped to 67%, but that was notable as well
because for the first time in US history black turnout
surpassed that of whites.
For Hispanics, Mr Obama will be more of a mixed bag. While
he has won praise for his unilateral action on immigration
reform, Hispanic activists have noted that he prioritised
other issues when he had congressional majorities early in
his term – and his administration has set a record for total
number of deportations.
Fortunately for Mrs Clinton, her autumn opponent is Donald
Trump – who has his own image problems among this
rapidly growing portion of the electorate.
Will he help? Mr Obama may not be able to deliver the kind
of historic numbers that turned out in 2008, but he’s still a
force to be reckoned with.
Working-class whites
Mr Obama struggled with white, working-class voters in 2008
even before he made his famous off-the-cuff comments
about how they “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to
people who aren’t like them”.
During the 2008 primary season, Mrs Clinton trounced Mr
Obama among whites – particularly in the South – winning by
49% in Kentucky, 47% in Alabama, and 44% in Mississippi. In
the 2012 general election, Mr Obama carried only 36% of
the white vote.
It seems likely that the key battleground in the forthcoming
Trump-Clinton general election will be the industrial Mid-
West and Pennsylvania, where the working-class white vote
could prove instrumental.
It’s no coincidence that the first two campaign stops for Mrs
Clinton after securing the Democratic nomination this week
are Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Will he help? This isn’t where Mr Obama will make his
A bit of history
Mrs Clinton finds herself in an unusual spot. She has an
incumbent president who is both well liked – with approval
ratings climbing over 50% – and free from political baggage.
George W Bush had an approval rating in the 20s during the
2008 presidential campaign. He made few appearances on
nominee John McCain’s behalf and only spoke by video at
the Republican National Convention.
In 2000 Democrat Bill Clinton was popular – but his
impeachment during the Monica Lewinsky scandal made
him damaged goods politically. Even though he endorsed Al
Gore in the Democratic primary race against Bill Bradley,
the then-vice-president chose to distance himself from Mr
Clinton on the campaign trail. His selection of Connecticut
Senator Joe Lieberman, who had been a critic of Mr Clinton’s
sex scandal, was seen as a rebuke of the incumbent.
It requires going back all the way to 1988 to find the last
time an incumbent president was an unalloyed good in a
presidential election. Ronald Reagan, despite the Iran-
Contra scandal several years earlier, was still very popular
and an active presence on the campaign trail. He gave
George HW Bush a decided boost during the Republican
convention, positioning his vice-president as the heir to his
political legacy.
And before that? 1968 wasn’t exactly a good year for
incumbent Lyndon Johnson, with Vietnam roiling the nation.
In 1960, when Dwight Eisenhower was asked for an example
of a major idea his vice-president and Republican nominee
Richard Nixon had contributed during his presidency, he
said: “If you give me a week, I might think of one”.
Mrs Clinton must hope she gets a more ringing endorsement
than that from Mr Obama.