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Obama: Trump Hasn't Captured 'Zeitgeist Of The Country'

Donald Trump may have clinched the GOP nomination and commands attention with his unorthodox presidential campaign, but President Obama says Trump's record low favorability ratings show he hasn't won over the hearts and minds of the country just yet.

"I think it's pretty hard to argue that somebody who almost three-quarters of the country thinks is unqualified to be president and has a negative opinion about is tapping into the zeitgeist of the country or is speaking for a broad base of the country. But we'll find out," Obama said in a wide-ranging interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep.

In a Washington Post/ABC News poll this week, 2 in 3 Americans said Trump was unqualified to lead the country.

The president's comments came in response to a question about a statement Obama had made when he was campaigning in 2008. He said that previous presidents, such as John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, "changed the trajectory of America," and that he had wanted a similar moment.

But, even with the unlikely wave of support Trump has ridden over the past year, tapping into populist unrest and anger with Washington, Obama said Trump wasn't on pace to change the trajectory of America, though that "will be tested over the next four months."

"Look, that's what elections are for," Obama said, "and I think it's important for Democrats, progressives, moderates, people who care about our traditions, who care about pluralism, who care about tolerance, who care about facts, who think climate change is real, who think that we have to reform our immigration system in an intelligent way, who believe in women's equality and equality for the LGBT community — I think it's important for those of us not to be complacent, not to be smug."

"The one thing I've tried to do during the course of my presidency is to take seriously the objections and the criticisms and the concerns of people who didn't vote for me," the president continued. "I said on election night back in Grant Park [in 2008], I'm president of everybody. I've got a particular point of view. I don't make any apologies for it."

Obama said the "core of that message" he's worked to convey over the course of his presidency "is that we are better when we are together, that I do not believe in tribalism. I do not believe in stoking divisions and scapegoating. I think that people have common hopes and common dreams and I think that America is at its best when we are unified and working together."

He acknowledged there's been "polarization and division and all kinds of consternation and frustration" during his administration, but also boasted that the country has "yanked itself out of a Great Recession," helped provide health insurance for 20 million people and ushered in gay marriage legalization with an "LGBT community that is recognized as equal in ways that they weren't before."

"And you know, I feel pretty confident that as long as we do the work over the next several months and then continue that work over the next several years, that we will have emerged from this era stronger, more prosperous, more secure and adhering more closely to the values and ideals that make America exceptional," Obama said.

Obama's approval rating has improved in recent months. The Post/ABC survey puts it at 56 percent, his highest in five years.

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Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.