President Obama Finally Talks 2016 & What He Thinks About The Democratic Frontrunners

POTUS has finally spoken about the 2016 election, indicating that he's watching closely to ensure that his successor carries the torch of his own presidency, building upon the growth of his two terms. In a lengthy interview with Politico's Glenn Thrush for his Off Message podcast, President Obama offered impressive insights into campaigning, what Iowa means to him, and shared his thoughts on the top two Democratic candidates — Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. But what Obama said about Sanders and Clinton shows that he hasn't necessarily made up his mind on who to endorse, though he certainly thinks highly of both presidential hopefuls.

The Iowa caucus is barely a week away — an important election marker for candidates on either side. Obama sees it as a reminder of just how far he's come since his 2008 campaign, citing it as "the most satisfying political period" of his career. He was honest in his assessment of past speeches during that era of his career, owing a large portion of his success to grassroots efforts from young voters as well as his campaign staff. Obama said:

Despite the flaws of the candidate, we had this unbelievable team of young people ... kids who planted themselves in, you know, small towns all across the state, developed relationships with community leaders and got to know people, and created an infrastructure so that I was able to get to know people in a kind of level of detail you just wouldn't see in other places.

Given the success of Sanders' own youthful supporters, whose impressive grassroots have made him an undeniable contender leading into the Iowa caucus, it's safe to say that there are many similarities to the Vermont senator's campaign and Obama's initial efforts. Still, the president was cautious about his own hope for the future of the presidency. "My number one priority is having a Democratic president succeed me," Obama said. So, what does he think about the top two Democratic contenders?

On Hillary Clinton

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Having Clinton serving as secretary of state under the Obama administration has primed the president to answer questions about the candidate based off first-hand experience working with her. Obama was measured in his praise of Clinton, calling her "idealistic and progressive." His analysis of how both Clinton and Sanders are currently polling pointed to a changing political field from when Obama first campaigned back in 2008:

I think that what Hillary presents is a recognition that translating values into governance and delivering the goods is ultimately the job of politics, making a real-life difference to people in their day-to-day lives. ... You'd have to be to be in, you know, the position she's [Clinton] in now, having fought all the battles she's fought and, you know, taken so many, you know, slings and arrows from the other side. ... I've gotten to know Hillary really well, and she is a good, smart, tough person who cares deeply about this country, and she has been in the public eye for a long time and in a culture in which new is always better. And, you know, you're always looking at the bright, shiny object that people don't, haven't seen before. That's a disadvantage to her.

On Bernie Sanders

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Obama cited Sanders' blunt, honest appeal as an understandable reason for the candidate to be gaining on Clinton in the polls. The president considers Sanders to be challenging Reagan-esque policies by being unabashed in his Democratic socialist views. Still, he has some criticism for the candidate:

I will say that the longer you go in the process, the more you're going to have to pass a series of hurdles that the voters are going to put in front of you. ... I think that there's always just a rhythm to this thing. I think that if Bernie won Iowa or won New Hampshire, then you guys [journalists] are going to do your jobs and, you know, you're going to dig into his proposals and how much they cost and what does it mean, and, you know, how does his tax policy work and he's subjected, then, to a rigor that hasn't happened yet, but that Hillary is very well familiar with.