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2016 Conventions

It’s Clinton’s Convention but Obama May Be Most Important Factor

Obama's Legacy on the Line in Final DNC Speech as President 2:37

PHILADELPHIA. Pa. — This Democratic convention is Hillary Clinton’s party.

But the person who’s hovering over it — and still shaping the overall Democratic Party's policies, tone and temperament — is the man speaking Wednesday night: President Barack Obama.

Indeed, Obama could very well be the most important figure in the presidential contest between now and Election Day, whether it’s galvanizing Clinton’s supporters or motivating Donald Trump’s.

Obama’s job-approval rating stands at 51 percent in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal — the third-straight NBC/WSJ survey where his approval has been above 50 percent.

What’s more, nearly half of American voters (49 percent) give the president credit for what they say is the country’s improving economy.

“Those are powerful assets for the Clinton campaign,” said Fred Yang, a Democratic pollster who co-conducts the NBC/WSJ survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff.

Yang’s colleague, Democratic pollster Peter Hart, added: “President Obama remains the most important person over the next [100] days.”

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Not since Ronald Reagan has there been an outgoing incumbent president both who was popular enough to benefit his party’s nominee, and whom the nominee wanted to embrace. (In 2000, Bill Clinton’s approval ratings were sky-high, but Al Gore’s campaign distanced itself from him due to the Monica Lewinsky scandal.)

And in a way, Obama could play the same role that Bill Clinton did for him in 2012 — as a personal validator, especially during his convention speech on Wednesday.

“You know, the truth is, is that Hillary and I have become friends, but we're not bosom buddies. We don't go vacationing together. I think that I have got a pretty clear-eyed sense of both her strengths and her weaknesses,” he said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Obama: This Isn't a Reality TV Show 1:24

He continued: “And what I would say would be that this is somebody who knows as much about domestic and foreign policy as anybody, is tough as nails, is motivated by what's best for America and ordinary people, understands that, in this democracy that we have, things don't always happen as fast as we'd like, and it requires compromise and grinding it out.”

Obama added: “She's not always flashy, and there are better speechmakers, but she knows her stuff. And more than anything, that is what is ultimately required to do a good job in this office.”

But while Democrats are eager to embrace Obama with his approval rating above 50 percent, Republicans want to use the negative news and at home and abroad — the terrorist attacks in Orlando and France, and the police shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge — against the party in charge of the White House.

“We're going to stop the problems. We're going to stop the problems. In other words, sure, I talk about the problems, but we're going to solve the problems,” Donald Trump said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

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After all, more than 70 percent of voters believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, according to the NBC/WSJ poll. And 56 percent say they prefer a presidential candidate who brings greater changes to how the government operatives, even those changes might be unpredictable.

A popular president versus a desire for change — two of the biggest forces playing out in this presidential election.