President Barack Obama said he’s “confident” that he could’ve won a third term if he would’ve been allowed to run. In an interview with David Axelrod, the president explained:
Obama, as he has in other public comments following Clinton’s defeat, insisted that the loss was neither a rebuke of his policies nor does it mean his party left middle America behind. Instead, Democrats failed to communicate how much “we care about these communities.”
“If you think you’re winning, then you have a tendency, just like in sports, maybe to play it safer. And the economy has been improving,” he added in reference to the Clinton campaign. “There is a sense, obviously, that some communities have been left behind from the recovery and people feeling anxious about that. But if she was looking at the campaign and saying ‘OK, I’m winning right now’ — and her economic agenda was in fact very progressive.”
“In the wake of the election and Trump winning, a lot of people have suggested that somehow, it really was a fantasy,” Obama said of his historic 2008 White House run and eventual victory. “What I would argue is, is that the culture actually did shift, that the majority does buy into the notion of a one America that is tolerant and diverse and open and full of energy and dynamism.”
In order for Democrats to avoid being permanently marginalized, Obama made the case that the party must embrace its roots as a party of average Americans.
“We’re not there on the ground communicating not only the dry policy aspects of this, but that we care about these communities, that we’re bleeding for these communities,” he said. “It means caring about local races, state boards or school boards and city councils and state legislative races and not thinking that somehow, just a great set of progressive policies that we present to the New York Times editorial board will win the day.”
Obama was barred from running for a third term under a provision of the US constitution. Since the ratification of the 22nd amendment in 1951, presidents have been unable to serve more than two terms in office. Although there had previously been no limit on how many terms one could serve in the presidency, the two terms served by George Washington had served as an unbinding precedent on his successors. However, this precedent was broken by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s decision to run for a third term in 1940. After Roosevelt won that election as well as the succeeding one in 1944, hostility from Republicans towards his actions led to the 22nd amendment’s passage.