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Clinton struggles to secure Obama coalition

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Associated Press

WASHINGTON

Hillary Clinton long planned to activate the vaunted Obama coalition to help carry her to the White House. But a rough month on the trail has exposed a big challenge – the Obama coalition belongs to Barack Obama.

Clinton’s struggle to win over Obama’s supporters – most notably young voters – has served as a reminder that many of them are more loyal to him than to his Democratic Party. Republican Donald Trump’s recent rise in the polls helps demonstrate that Obama’s two victories were more about one man in the right moment than any political realignment.

Rather than showing a formula for winning the White House for years to come, as many Democrats hoped, Obama’s coalition may fail to outlast his own presidency. If that happens, Obama – long known for his dislike of party politics – will share some of the blame.

“The enduring Obama coalition is a bit of an urban legend,” said Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg. “It was very much shaped by that election in that period.”

This hard reality is not lost on the president. After months of appearing coolly confident about Clinton’s chances, Obama has begun to acknowledge the alternative and get out on the campaign trail on her behalf.

“This shouldn’t be close, but it’s close,” Obama recently told donors in New York. His pitch to his most die-hard backers was telling: “I will consider it a personal insult, an insult to my legacy,” if African-American voters don’t turn out.

Obama’s comments acknowledge his personal connection that drove Democrats to the polls four years ago – one Clinton has struggled to match.