Obama says the Democratic nominee will be clear next week, hits out at Republican 'myths'

US President Barack Obama waits during a break in filming a town hall meeting for PBS Newshour at the Lerner Theatre.
US President Barack Obama waits during a break in filming a town hall meeting for PBS Newshour at the Lerner Theatre. PHOTO: AFP

ELKHART, Indiana (REUTERS, AFP, BLOOMBERG) - United States President Barack Obama said on Wednesday (June 1) he expected the winner of the Democratic presidential nominating race would be clear next week after Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders compete in races in California and New Jersey.

"I think that there has been a healthy debate in the Democratic Party, and it's almost over," Obama said during a town hall-style event broadcast by PBS.

People will "probably have a pretty good sense next week,"of who the nominee will be, Obama said.

Clinton, a former US secretary of state, is the front-runner in the Democratic race. Sanders, a US senator from Vermont, lags her in the number of delegates needed to wrap up the nomination.

California and New Jersey, which both have large numbers of delegates up for grabs, hold their votes next Tuesday.

Obama has not endorsed either candidate in the Democratic race, though he has made clear his affection and admiration for Clinton, who was his opponent in the 2008 Democratic nominating race. Obama appointed Clinton as his secretary of state after winning the presidential election that year.

Americans going to the polls Nov 8 will likely have to choose whether Republican Donald Trump or Clinton should replace Obama in the White House.

On Wednesday, Obama took on Trump's Republican campaign pitch to make America great again by declaring that his economic policies already have made life better for middle-class voters.

Obama returned to the site of his first presidential visit, Elkhart, Indiana, known for its motor home industry, to deliver one of his most pointed political speeches of the year. Voters who are most concerned about their own financial interests have a clear choice in November, Obama said: Democrats.

"If what you really care about in this election is your pocketbook; if what you're concerned about is who will look out for the interests of working people and grow the middle class, then the debate isn't even close," Obama said.

Only a Democratic successor can build on policies that saved cities like Elkhart from economic demise, Obama said. He laced his arguments with some of the populist fire that has become a mainstay of the campaign trail, warning Republicans would pursue policies that benefit the Chinese, big banks and the richest Americans.

Elkhart has seen its unemployment rate drop from 18.9 per cent in 2009, Obama's first year in office, to just 4.1 per cent in April. The White House views the economic rebound of the city, population 51,000, as a frame for the success of programs such as Obama's stimulus and his health-care law.