President Barack Obama on Friday expressed astonishment at a new poll that found more than a third of Republicans approve of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“There was a survey that some of you saw where, now this is just one poll but a pretty credible source, that 37% of Republican voters approve of Putin,” Obama said. “Over a third of Republican voters approve of Vladimir Putin, the former head of the KGB.”
“Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave,” Obama said.
Obama was referencing a YouGov/Economist survey that showed Putin’s net favorability with Republicans at -10 in December. It had jumped from a staggeringly low -66 in July 2014. In the same poll, Putin’s same number with Democrats had dipped to -62 from -54.
Obama said the “fierceness of partisan politics” was responsible for this.
“You start to see some in the Republican Party and Republican voters, suddenly finding a government and individuals who stand contrary to everything we stand for as being okay because that’s how much we dislike Democrats,” he said.
The president continued: “I mean, think about it, some of the people who have historically been very critical of me for engaging with Russia and having conversations with them, also endorse the president-elect even as he was saying we should stop sanctioning Russia…and work together with [Putin].”
Obama noted that President-elect Donald Trump was “very complimentary of Mr. Putin personally” during the campaign.
“That wasn’t news,” he said. “The president-elect during the campaign said so. Some folks who had made a career out of being anti-Russia didn’t say anything about it. And then after the election, they’re asking, ‘Why didn’t you tell us that the Russians were trying to help our candidate?’ Come on.”
Continuing, Obama said the end result of Republican voters having a more positive view of Putin happened because “for too long” conservative politicians have focused on how developments in Washington, DC, can be used to gain an advantage over Democrats or himself.
“And unless that changes, we’re going to continue to be vulnerable to foreign influence,” the president said.