Barack Obama said Thursday that if he had one regret during his presidency, it was "people were so focused" on him that they lost sight of other important races, which led to the Democratic Party suffering tremendous losses.
Obama told attendees at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Beverly Hills, California they were "right to be concerned" about the state of the world under the Trump administration.
While Obama was elected and re-elected president in decisive victories, the Democratic Party during his administration took a pummeling.
When Obama won his first presidential election in 2008, his party held both chambers of Congress, 59 percent of state legislatures, and 29 governorships. When President Donald Trump took office in January of 2017 after his stunning victory, Democrats had lost both their majorities in Congress, held just 31 percent of state legislatures and only had 16 governorships.
Politico reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere, one of the few journalists on hand for the event, wrote, "[Obama] almost accepted some of the blame for the state of the party, though he framed it less as the DNC atrophying from years of benign neglect while he was in the White House and being saddled with his reelection campaign debt and more as people making the mistake of falling too much in love with him."
"I’ll be honest with you, if I have a regret during my presidency, it is that people were so focused on me and the battles we were having, particularly after we lost the House, that folks stopped paying attention up and down the ballot," Obama said.
The Beverly Hills event was the first of three fundraisers Obama is doing in California this week, as the DNC continues to bolster its financing ahead of the critical 2018 midterms. The former president, who left office with high approval ratings and remains wildly popular with Democrats, has been criticized by top bundlers for not doing enough fundraising for the party.
In a sign of the party's pining for a return to his days in office, DNC chairman Tom Perez introduced Obama at the fundraiser as "the real president of the United States."
Obama said Thursday that Democrats should not wait for a perfect, inspiring candidate to motivate them.
"Do not wait for the perfect message, don’t wait to feel a tingle in your spine because you’re expecting politicians to be so inspiring and poetic and moving that somehow, ‘OK, I’ll get off my couch after all and go spend the 15-20 minutes it takes for me to vote,’" Obama said. "Because that’s part of what happened in the last election. I heard that too much."
The remark was reminiscent of his comments shortly before the 2016 election, when he said "not everything's supposed to be inspiring" in an implicit shot at Hillary Clinton's lack of star power.
"You can't say you care about those things and then suggest somehow that you're feeling cynical or you're not sufficiently inspired," he told MSNBC's Al Sharpton. "Michelle and I, we talk over the dinner table, we explain to our daughters, not everything's supposed to be inspiring. Sometimes you just do what you have to do, and one of the things you've got to do right now is to make sure to vote for Hillary Clinton."