Underscoring the Tampa Bay area's role in determining the outcome of national elections, President Obama gave a surprise phone interview on popular, iHeartMedia-owned hip hop/R&B station 95.7 the Beat Wednesday afternoon largely to ask listeners to get to the polls, and to help Hillary Clinton become president in doing so.
It's likely that channel in this particular media market was chosen for good reason: to fire up young and/or minority voters in the largest media market in the largest swing state in the country.
There have been concerns that Clinton, despite extensive experience and a resume that includes getting health coverage for children and fighting segregation in schools, isn't sparking the same enthusiasm among young and minority voters in her battle against billionaire Donald Trump as Obama had as a young U.S. Senator running against Senior U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, in 2008 (and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in 2012).
In an interview with on-air personality Anjali Queen B, he urged listeners to get to the polls.
“It is easy to vote, it is important to vote, this is a huge election, and I hope all your listeners are going to make sure that they do the right thing and build on the work that Michelle and I have been doing for the last eight years,” he said.
Though Clinton was Obama's primary rival in 2008, the two have since then been allies. He appointed her Secretary of State after winning the presidency. He's been a key surrogate for Clinton since the Democratic National Convention. Still, some supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, her primary opponent this time around, are deeply skeptical of Clinton, given she's historically not been as far to the left as Sanders.
But heading into the convention, Clinton and mainstream Democrats agreed to adopt key pieces of Sanders' policy positions into the party platform, such as opposing the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and debt-free (though not totally free) college.
Obama offered a litany of reasons younger voters should give Clinton another look, given how starkly her proposals contrast those of Trump.
"I always tell young people nobody has more at stake in this election than they do," he said. "Because the truth of the matter is that whether they're going to be able to afford college, whether they're going to have debt when they graduate college, what kind of job they're going to get, are they going to be living in communities where the criminal justice system works the way it should, those are all issues that are directly impacted by who's in your government. And if you don't vote, then you get bad decisions. Or special interests and corporations — the wealthiest and the most powerful are the people who are going to be benefiting from what happens in government as opposed to ordinary folks. If you do vote, you're going to have people who look out for your concerns.”
Obama's conversation with Anjali Queen B took place hours before the final debate between Clinton and Trump. He said he was perplexed by the idea that anyone hasn't made up their mind at this point in the election cycle.
“I'll be honest with you. I think it's hard to figure out how you'd be undecided at this point," he said. "On the one hand you've got Secretary Hillary Clinton, who has been first lady, has been a senator, has been secretary of state, has done outstanding work in all of her jobs, served loyally with me, served around the world, is respected around the world.”
On the other hand, he said, was Donald Trump. He declined to elaborate much further on the bombastic reality TV star-turned-GOP presidential candidate.
Asked about the legacy he hopes his presidency leaves, he rattled off a number of accomplishments — the Affordable Care Act, essentially leaving Iraq — but said he hopes most of all that his work has inspired younger generations to be engaged in the political process.
“I hope that they feel as if we've set a good example of how government can be responsible and responsive and treat everyone with respect and have a tone in politics that is hopeful. And I think the greatest legacy for Michelle and me would be if we have a generation of young people who grew up during my presidency who want to give back, who want to get involved in public service, participate, who want to vote, who pay attention to the issues, believe they can make a difference. If we see that, we know that we've done a good job.”
He ended the interview by urging listeners to also vote in down-ballot races, namely that for the Florida U.S. Senate on the ballot this year. It's a race where Congressman Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, whom Obama endorsed, is challenging incumbent Republican Marco Rubio, the latter of which may be vulnerable with the right turnout, and encouraged everyone to check their voter registration status, request ballots and find their polling place at iwillvote.com.