Washington: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has had the "luxury of being a complete long shot" so far in the race to be the US Democratic presidential candidate, President Barack Obama said in an interview published by Politico on Monday.
Obama said both Sanders and Hillary Clinton, his former Secretary of State, share similar views on core issues like income inequality, but said Clinton faces the disadvantage of being a well-known commodity "in a culture in which new is always better."
"I think Bernie came in with the luxury of being a complete long shot and just letting loose," Obama said in the interview with the political news website. "I think Hillary came in with the both privilege and burden of being perceived as the front-runner," he said.
Obama lauded Clinton's experience, saying it will help her govern if she wins, but he described her campaign as "cautious."
"Her strengths, which are the fact that she's extraordinarily experienced, and, you know, wicked smart and knows every policy inside and out, sometimes could make her more cautious and her campaign more prose than poetry," he said.
The interview was the first time Obama has discussed in detail the Democratic race to replace him, and it comes just ahead of the first contests to pick a nominee for the November election: Iowa, on February 1, and New Hampshire, on February 9.
He did not explicitly endorse a candidate, and mentioned only once in passing former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, who trails in polls.
Sanders has surged in recent polls in Iowa and leads Clinton in New Hampshire. If Sanders wins either state, he will face the kind of intense scrutiny the media has long given Clinton, Obama said.
"You're going to dig into his proposals and how much they cost and what does it mean, and, you know, how does his tax policy work and he's subjected, then, to a rigor that hasn't happened yet," Obama said.
Obama also said he thought Sanders would need to broaden his message to continue to succeed in the campaign.
"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, because the one thing everybody understands is that [with] this job right here, you don't have the luxury of just focusing on one thing," he said.
© Thomson Reuters 2016