BALTIMORE — In his final address to the House Democratic Caucus retreat as president, Barack Obama on Thursday expressed confidence in his party's ability to retain the White House.
"Democrats will win in November and we will have a Democratic president succeed me," he said.
Despite a legislative agenda that has greatly reduced their ranks and led to historic Republican majorities in Congress, House Democrats were largely supportive of a president that many have said will be the best of their lifetime.
In 2009 when Obama first addressed the retreat, there were 257 House Democrats. This year there are 177. Passage of the economic stimulus bill, the healthcare law, financial service reform and the rise of ISIS took their toll on a caucus that over the course of the last seven years was nearly always in the president's corner.
Obama expressed thanks for such loyalty saying, "I could not be prouder of the work this caucus has done. I could not be prouder of the partnership I have with you."
He continued, "I want to spend every moment from now till January 20th, 2017 working hard to protect your legacy."
Obama mostly refrained from commenting on the presidential race in his opening remarks, however, he hinted that the despite the current contentious race on the Democratic side between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders he was "not worried about this party sticking together" and "I can't say that for the other side."
On a night where much of the media's attention is focused on Donald Trump's refusal to participate in the GOP debate in Iowa, Obama referenced the Republican front-runner when making his case for a multilateral foreign policy: "We're not going to strengthen our leadership around the world by allowing politicians to insult Muslims or pit groups of Americans against each other," he said.
The line was met with applause.
One long-time House Democrat remarked to NBC News on how full circle Obama's appearance before the Caucus was.
"When he was first here, we had an unstoppable majority, now I'm pretty sure I'll be in the minority till I retire," the rep said.
When pressed if it was worth being in the political equivalent of a desert, a rank and file member in the minority party — the Democrats — said, "It was certainly a productive time in the beginning, but boy, we really lost a lot of members."
Today House Republicans enjoy their largest majority since the 1920s.