President Obama Offers His Theory on Why the Democrats Lost in 2016

November 14th 2016

During his first press conference since hosting President-elect Donald Trump at the White House last week, President Barack Obama offered some advice to Democrats as they begin to assess their Election Day loss. He told the press on Monday that Democrats cannot underestimate the value of grassroots campaigning.

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Obama said that he believes Democrats have "better ideas," but that "good ideas don’t matter if people don’t hear them."

"One of the issues that Democrats have to be clear on is, given population distribution across the country, we have to compete everywhere," Obama said. "We have to show up everywhere. We have to work at a grassroots level — something that’s been a running thread in my career."

He offered an example from his 2008 presidential campaign, when he won Iowa by about 10 points:

"I won Iowa not because the demographics dictated that I would win Iowa. It was because I spent 87 days going to every small town, fair, fish fry, and VFW hall. And there were some counties where I might have lost — but maybe I lost by 20 points instead of 50 points. There are some counties maybe I won that people didn’t expect because people had a chance to see and listen to you and get a sense of who you stood for and who you were fighting for. The challenge for a national party is how do you dig in there and create those kinds of structures so that people have a sense of what it is that you stand for, and that increasingly is difficult to do just through a national press strategy. It’s increasingly difficult to do because of the splintering of the press."

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's campaign has faced criticism for neglecting campaigning in states such as Wisconsin and Michigan — states where polls showed Clinton ahead by comfortable margins in the weeks leading up to the election, but where Trump ultimately prevailed after holding numerous rallies.

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The Atlantic's Ronald Brownstein dissected Clinton's performance and about wrote how the campaign "had taken too much for granted by pouring so much effort into Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina, three swing states she did not need to win — and ultimately did not. The price of that emphasis was extraordinarily little attention to Michigan and Wisconsin, which she did need to win, and also did not."

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