President Obama Dismisses Comparisons to Bernie Sanders in 2016 Race

PHOTO: President Barack Obama walks along the colonnade of the White House in Washington, Jan. 12, 2016, to the residence from the Oval Office, hours before giving his State of The Union address.Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo
President Barack Obama walks along the colonnade of the White House in Washington, Jan. 12, 2016, to the residence from the Oval Office, hours before giving his State of The Union address.

President Obama isn’t making an endorsement in the Democratic primary, but in a podcast interview posted this morning, he offered his most extensive thoughts so far on the 2016 contest to replace him.

Obama heaped praise on both Sen. Bernie Sanders and his former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, though he spends a considerable amount more time on the latter of the two.

Notably, Obama dismisses the idea when asked by Politico's Glenn Thrush if Sanders' surge in popularity is comparable to then-Sen. Obama's rise in 2008.

"No, I don't think -- I don't think that's true," Obama said. "I think Bernie came in with the luxury of being a complete long-shot and just letting loose. I think Hillary came in with the -- both privilege and burden of being perceived as the front-runner."

When asked if Sanders' singular focus on income inequality in his campaign is overdone, Obama said he didn't want to "play political consultant." However, he offered what seemed to be a critique of 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," Obama said. "Because the one thing everybody understands is that this job right here, you don’t have the luxury of just focusing on one thing."

Speaking of his 2008 Democratic opponent, Obama also said that the way the campaign "has been stacked" against Clinton is unfair.

President Obama also said he believes the divide between the Democratic and Republican parties seem as wide as ever as evidenced by the rise of Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump to the top of the GOP field.

"When I ran against John McCain, John McCain and I had real differences, sharp differences, but John McCain didn't deny climate science. John McCain didn't call for banning Muslims from the United States," Obama said. "It will be interesting to watch, during the course of this campaign, whether or not Republican voters steer back towards the center."