Obama itches for Trump fight

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President Obama can’t wait to take on Donald Trump.

Obama has been largely sidelined in the presidential contest, a last-year officeholder with high approval ratings who has repeatedly shown he likes to spar with political foes.

{mosads}With Bernie Sanders continuing to slug it out with likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Obama largely has to choose his openings to talk 2016.

So on Friday, when the White House announced Obama would make a statement about the economy, the president knew he’d get asked about Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

And when he did, Obama was ready.

“We are in serious times, and this is a really serious job,” Obama said. “This is not entertainment; this is not a reality show. This is a contest for the presidency of the United States.”

The remarks previewed a part of the Obama-Clinton strategy against Trump: that he is untested and not ready for the White House, and that the GOP and media have fallen down on the job by failing to properly vet him.

The remarks also reflect the urgency Obama feels about defeating Trump.

Keeping the White House in Democratic hands, no matter who became the Republican nominee, has always been an important goal for Obama. 

But the president has long shown a personal disdain for Trump, dating back to when the business mogul became a leader of the “birther” movement that questioned whether Obama was born in the United States. 

Obama has repeatedly said Trump could damage the country’s standing abroad while attempting to roll back his accomplishments at home. 

The president could face challenges in getting his message to break through against Trump, however, as the businessman has proved masterful at commanding media attention. 

The president is still confronting a months-long dilemma about tipping the scales on the Democratic side. 

Clinton, the party’s presidential front-runner, has a sizable delegate lead over Sanders. But the Vermont senator has said he won’t drop out before the Democratic National Convention in late July. 

The president dodged a question Friday about whether Sanders should drop out of the race, although he acknowledged “everybody knows what the math is.”

Sanders won in Indiana this past Tuesday and is expected to perform well in upcoming primaries in West Virginia and Oregon. 

The Democratic fight has somewhat handcuffed Obama — an increasing inconvenience as Trump pivots to the general election.

Clinton could face attacks from both Trump and Sanders until the final Democratic primary in Washington, D.C., on June 14. 

White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Thursday declined to say whether Obama would hit the campaign trail before the Democratic convention and brushed aside any concerns about Democrats mending fences. 

“The president certainly does envision a scenario where he will be strongly advocating for the Democratic nominee for president,” he said. “And part of the case that he will make will be the importance of Democrats coming together behind our nominee.” 

Clinton supporters believe the president would be an effective anti-Trump messenger, due to his high approval ratings and eight years of service as the country’s commander in chief. 

“Given the hot spots around the world and given how [Trump] is so thoroughly unprepared, I would imagine the president does spend a lot of time focusing on the foreign policy aspect of it,” said Democratic strategist Jim Manley, who is backing Clinton. 

Like many Democrats, Manley believes Obama is “anxious” to get on the campaign trail and skewer Trump over comments like the one he made Thursday, when he attributed his knowledge of Russia to a beauty pageant he held there.

“I know Russia well. I had a major event in Russia two or three years ago, Miss Universe contest, which was a big, big, incredible event. An incredible success,” Trump said on Fox News.

Amazingly, the comment echoed a joke Obama made at Trump’s expense at last weekend’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. 

“They say Donald lacks the foreign policy experience to be president,” Obama said. “But, in fairness, he has spent years meeting with leaders from around the world: Miss Sweden, Miss Argentina, Miss Azerbaijan.”

At the White House on Friday, Obama warned that Trump’s policy proposals would not stand up to scrutiny.

And he said Republicans would have to reckon with the fact that they chose a candidate whose bombastic comments about immigrants and women could hurt the party’s efforts to grow. 

“Republican voters are going to have to make a decision as to whether this is the guy who speaks for them and represents their values,” he said.

Tags Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Hillary Clinton White House

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