De facto leader of #NeverTrumpers: Barack Obama?

If you don’t like that headline, all I can tell you is that you’d better get used to it. You’ll be seeing and hearing a lot of it this fall from conservative media if Le Grande Orange becomes nominee.


Would there be anything quite as unifying to the GOP as Obama on a national campaign tour taking daily potshots at Trump?

When it comes to Trump, White House officials insist Obama hasn’t deviated from his plan to focus on his agenda. If he’s talking more about Trump, it’s because reporters are asking about him.

Still, Obama appears to relish the chance to take on a Republican who has dominated the presidential race — and who for years has lobbed grenades at Obama’s policies and place of birth.

The president has criticized Trump’s proposals three times in less than a week…

“We’re long past the place where we can underestimate Donald Trump,” Manley said. “We are in very dangerous territory. Saying nothing about this stuff is not an option.”

Other Democrats want O to start throwing roundhouses at Trump too — for strictly civic reasons, of course:

“Donald Trump’s rhetoric has gotten attention well beyond the water’s edge and started to impact perceptions of the United States around the world with the potential to strain our alliances,” said Ben LaBolt, founding partner of The Incite Agency and former national press secretary for the Obama campaign. “It’s incumbent upon the President to call it out before it damages our relations.”

No one wanted him around on the campaign trail in 2014, notes the Hill, yet suddenly Hillary and Bernie Sanders can’t stop complimenting him. Right … that’s because 2014 was a midterm election, when turnout tends to be smaller, whiter, and older, and 2016 is a presidential election year, when core Democratic groups show up. Obama’s more popular now than he was two years ago too (as the Hill notes), topping 50 percent in job approval in Gallup’s latest. One hot theory for that among the commentariat is that Trump’s goofier eruptions on Twitter and in interviews have boosted respect for Obama by making him look more presidential. I’d guess it has more to do with him being out of sight and out of mind. Presidents always grow in popularity once they’ve left office and there’s no longer any strong partisan investment in shaping opinion about them; Obama’s halfway out the door already as a lame-duck in his final year and he barely shows up on the news anymore thanks to Trump’s ubiquity. He’s practically a former president as is. (What, you thought me calling him “mostly retired” in headlines was a joke?)


So go figure that Hillary would want a popular-ish president out on the trail for her, especially when she’s desperate for Obama’s younger and minority fans to turn out for her this fall. That’s the only way realistically that she can lose an election against Trump — somehow, contrary to all available polling, Trump would need to run up the score with white voters, forcing Hillary in turn to reproduce or even expand Obama’s 2012 coalition of non-white voters to offset Trump’s gains. The more O goes to bat for her, the more likely it is that she can. The backlash against O will help unify Republicans behind Trump too, of course, but Democrats aren’t worried about that. They already handily beat a reasonably well unified GOP in 2012. Even if #NeverTrumpers are an insignificant share of the party, Dems can get to 270 with women, Latinos, blacks, and higher-earning whites, all of whom Trump currently polls terribly with. In fact, maybe that’s why Obama’s eager to start knocking Trump more often: He’s an easy target, basically as toxic to Obama’s own base as O himself is to the right. If his approval rating’s healthy now, wait until he goes full #NeverTrump every day.

Here’s a pair of videos from just the past week of Obama battering his new favorite punching bag.

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