Barack Obama’s last campaign

Washington (CNN)President Barack Obama’s popularity is growing just in time for him to wage the final campaign of his political life.

A CNN/ORC poll published Friday found Obama’s approval rating at 51%. He’s now been in positive territory since February — the longest period since shortly after his re-election in 2012. And 49% of those polled say things in the country are going very or fairly well — up 7% since January.


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The late-term boost in popularity is good news for a President whose achievements have often come at a heavy political price in a deeply partisan age. But it could be even better news for Hillary Clinton, who is preparing for a fierce general election clash with Donald Trump and may need to deploy a popular Obama to the campaign trail to drive up Democratic enthusiasm.
Though Obama yet hasn’t formally endorsed Clinton, who remains in a primary race against Bernie Sanders, he was eager Friday to take on Trump and preview his arguments for the fall.
“We are in serious times and this is a really serious job,” Obama said in his first news conference since Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee this week. “This is not entertainment. This is not a reality show. This is a contest for the presidency of the United States.”
His remarks reflect the fact that though many Democrats and Republicans believe Clinton is favored to win given Trump’s high negatives with key demographics, lack of political experience and controversial rhetoric, the White House will take nothing for granted.
“Our view is that he will campaign and he will be out there like the nominee is having the race of their life,” said a senior administration official on condition of anonymity to discuss internal thinking. “That is how you have to run in presidential elections.”
Hitting the stump for his chosen successor — always a nostalgic moment for a President leaving office — Obama will draw contrasts with the gains made in his presidency and what he believes Republicans, under Trump, would represent.

‘Holes in his shoes’

“There is no question that the President will be rolling up his sleeves and be out there quite a bit on the campaign trail in the summer and the fall,” said White House Communications Director Jen Psaki. “He has already done quite a bit of fundraising. I think people can expect that he will get some holes in his shoes from the amount of campaigning he will do.”
Obama will likely spend time courting voters who twice backed his White House campaigns — millennials, Latinos and African Americans — all of whom Clinton needs in November. The President and his wife, Michelle, could be powerful advocates for Clinton in big cities in key swing states, like Cleveland, Miami and Denver, where Trump must cut into the Democratic vote to win the election.
“President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are the two most popular elected and non-elected officials amongst minorities, particularly African Americans,” said Tharon Johnson, a Georgia Democratic strategist who ran Obama’s southern re-election campaign in 2012 and now backs Clinton. “President Obama will be able to speak to the minority community with not just rhetoric like Trump but with concrete successes like (Obamacare), the growth in the economy etc that will ignite that demographic,” Johnson said.
Johnson said Obama would also be an asset in uniting Democrats after a primary that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders plans to pursue until the convention in July.
“Mobilizing the Sanders wing of that party is something a sitting president like Obama who is popular with the base can probably do better than anyone,” Johnson said.
Given his improving approval ratings, Obama also plans to venture into more unexpected territory, White House aides said, including suburban areas and midwestern states. Such an itinerary could draw him into direct conflict with Trump, who will brandish a fiercely protectionist trade agenda in areas that he says have been hurt by economic competitors like China and the economy under Obama.

Obama’s potential to help

There is every sign Clinton understands Obama’s potential to help her. Although she has repeatedly said she’s not running for Obama’s third term — or that of her husband — she has praised and defended the President in front of Democratic audiences.
And having been on the inside when then-Vice President Al Gore spurned President Bill Clinton’s offers of help in 2000, fearing fallout from his boss’s personal dramas could be damaging, Clinton has special insight on the president-versus-candidate dynamic.
This week, the White House offered CNN behind the scenes access as Obama observed the anniversary of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden for the last time as President.
Obama is expected to make more personal attempts to define the narrative arc of his administration in coming months, likely including his farewell at the July’s Democratic National Convention — the place where his political star was born in 2004. It’s all stirring nostalgia for aides who were at his side way back at the beginning of his presidential journey four years later.
“We are very cognizant of the ticking clock and the fact that we have a very limited amount of time left,” Psaki said.

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