WASHINGTON — There’s no cheering at the White House for Donald Trump’s success. Yet for President Barack Obama, things could be worse.
Trump’s ascent as the presumptive Republican nominee makes some of Obama’s main achievements more likely to survive after the next president takes over. Trump’s policy prescriptions, while full of contradictions and short on specifics, are generally closer to Obama’s than those of Trump’s closest GOP rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
Where Cruz opposed Obama’s outreach to Cuba, Trump said it’s “fine,” though he would have handled it differently. Trump even has embraced a few essential elements of Obama’s health law, long the bane of the Republican Party. On gay and transgender rights, the New York businessman has taken a softer tone than Cruz and most of the other Republicans who sought the nomination, too.
To be sure, a Trump presidency would be bad news for most of Obama’s legacy. After all, Trump has said that Obama may go down as the worst president in history.
Trump has said that if he’s elected, he’ll terminate Obama’s immigration actions and build a wall on the border with Mexico. He rails against Obama’s trade deals and laughs off concerns about climate change, while saying he would repeal the Dodd-Frank financial reforms.
For Hillary Clinton, that’s Argument A why voters seeking to uphold Obama’s legacy should side with her.
“From starting his political campaign on the back of a birther conspiracy about the president to promising to overturn the many accomplishments of the Obama administration, Donald Trump is too much of a risk for anyone who cares about President Obama’s legacy,” said Jesse Ferguson, a Clinton campaign spokesman.
With Trump as the Republican nominee, Obama’s aides are more confident that Obama will be succeeded by a Democrat, a view bolstered by the deep fractures that Trump’s ascent is carving in the GOP. The big question at the White House is whether Trump can successfully recast himself in the general election without triggering backlash from voters seeking ideological purity.
A look at issues where Trump has suggested he’d stick with elements of Obama’s approach:
Obama has spent more than a year working to make his historic rapprochement with Cuba irreversible. With Trump as the nominee, it appears closer ties are here to stay.
Unlike Cruz, the son of a Cuban immigrant, and the other Republican candidates who vociferously opposed Obama’s policy, Trump has said that a half-century of estrangement was plenty.
“I think it’s fine,” Trump said of Obama’s outstretched hand. “But we should have made a better deal.”
Like his former GOP challengers, Trump opposes Obama’s health law and has pledged “a full repeal.” But when it comes to what should replace it, Trump has described something closer to Obama’s approach than what other Republicans prefer.
Trump wants to keep the coverage guarantees for existing conditions. That’s a position that Cruz and other Republicans haven’t fully embraced.
While Trump has said his plan would largely rely on private insurance companies, he’s been open in the past to government-run health care — a step further than what Obama was able to accomplish, and the preferred system of Democrat Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nomination.
“As far as single payer, it works in Canada,” Trump said in a GOP debate in August. “It could have worked in a different age.”
Trump is no fan of Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. But he’s one of the only GOP contenders this year to suggest he would not rescind it — at least temporarily.
Cruz pledged to rip the deal “to shreds” on his first day in office. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said he couldn’t stand behind it. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio promised to re-impose sanctions. And Carly Fiorina said her second call as president — her first would be to Israel — would be to Iran’s supreme leader to issue an ultimatum.
“We have a horrible contract, but we do have a contract,” Trump has said.
Acknowledging it would be popular to say he’d rip up the deal, Trump says instead he’d seek to renegotiate it and “police” Iran for violations.
“You know, I’ve taken over plenty of bad contracts where I’ve bought things where deals have gone bad because the people doing it didn’t know what they were doing,” Trump has said.
GAY AND TRANSGENDER RIGHTS
Trump conspicuously broke with his party by opposing a North Carolina law requiring transgender people to use bathrooms conforming with their birth certificates. While Cruz warned of grown men ogling little girls, Trump advised North Carolina it should have left well enough alone.
“There have been very few complaints the way it is,” Trump told NBC’s “Today Show” last month. “People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble.”
Obama, too, opposes the law. But unlike Trump, Obama has been a vocal advocate for gay marriage.
Trump has generally avoided the issue on the campaign trail. He’s said he’s attended a gay wedding, but disagreed with the Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage nationwide.
“If I’m elected I would be very strong in putting certain judges on the bench that I think maybe could change things,” Trump has said.