Obama: Clinton campaigned defensively, faced 'double standard'
© Greg Nash

On an interview for CNN's "Axe Files" podcast, President Obama said Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump: 'Why no action' from Obama on Russian meddling? Trump notes 'election meddling by Russia' in tweet criticizing Obama Former Obama advisor calls Fox ‘state sanctioned media’ MORE campaigned perhaps too defensively in the 2016 elections, given the polling that showed her with a healthy lead. 

Asked by David Axelrod, a former Obama chief strategist and current CNN host, whether Clinton needed an overarching economic message, the president said that message might have been lost when Clinton shifted her campaign to protect her lead rather than poach new voters. 

"If you think you're winning, then you have a tendency, just like in sports, maybe to play it safer. And the economy has been improving," Obama said. "There is a sense, obviously, that some communities have been left behind from the recovery and people feeling anxious about that. But if she was looking at the campaign and saying 'OK, I'm winning right now' — and her economic agenda was in fact very progressive."

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Pressed on the issue, Obama acknowledged that an economic message may have been more successful, but argued that may have been difficult against the unique candidacy of President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpAt center of Qatar crisis, a billion ransom Chaffetz: Threats against lawmakers should be taken seriously Warren cautions Dems against infighting MORE

"[U]nderstandably, I think she looked and said well, given my opponent and the things he's saying and what he's doing, we should focus on that."

The president also pinned many of Clinton's problems on a media "double standard...that meant her flaws were wildly amplified." 

While the press focused throughout the campaign on issues related to political scandals involving Clinton — including her private email server and possible conflicts of interest with the Clinton Foundation — it also kept attention squarely on Trump's personal scandals and offensive statements. 

Elsewhere in the interview, Obama discusses his mother, how he evolved from a “goof off” college kid to the more disciplined editor of the Harvard Law Review and how, with his 2008 message of hope and inclusivity, he might have won this election against Trump's version of populism.