Obama's DNC Speech Broke From History
President Obama's big speech boosting Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention wasn't the capstone to his political career, a finale to his historic two-term presidency. It was the grand opening of his highly unusual role in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Rarely is there such an alignment between a sitting president and his would-be successor. In 2008, John McCain avoided the unpopular George W. Bush. In 2000, Al Gore dodged the scandal-stained Bill Clinton. But this time around, the Democratic president and the Democratic presidential nominee seem downright eager for the former to ensure the latter's election.
Soundbites and snapshots from President Obama's speech on Wednesday night could have been mistaken for his own in 2008. Both featured thunderous applause as he walked to the podium while the crowd chanted "Yes, we can!" Both saw Obama energizing the audience with his familiar "I love you back." Both speeches hit on themes like hope, optimism and a belief in American exceptionalism.
In so many ways, Obama's speech felt familiar. But in other ways, it was quite rare. After all, sitting presidents in modern history are typically so unpopular by the end of their second terms that new nominees typically seek to stay as far away as they can from the presidents of their own parties.
In 2008, for instance, Sen. John McCain seemed to keep as far away from George W. Bush as humanly possible. Bush, whose second term average approval rating was a dismal 37 percent in the aftermath of the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina, spoke at the GOP convention but by satellite. Meanwhile, McCain used a common phrase as he stumped to get the message across: "I am not George Bush."