Washington: President Barack Obama suggested the American people are too "sensible" to elect Republican frontrunner Donald Trump as president even as he and Hillary Clinton held commanding leads in the next battle ground of South Carolina.
But he diplomatically avoided taking sides in the Democratic race between his former secretary of state and self-styled Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders who is posing a stronger than expected challenge to her.
"I continue to believe Mr. Trump will not be president," Obama said at a news conference in California Tuesday. "And the reason is that I have a lot of faith in the American people. Being president is a serious job. It's not hosting a talk show, or a reality show."
"It's not promotion, it's not marketing. It's hard. And a lot of people count on us getting it right," said Obama. The presidency isn't "a matter of pandering and doing whatever will get you in the news on a given day."
He also took shots at two other Republican candidates senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
Trump responded to Obama during an event in Beaufort, South Carolina, saying: "He has done such a lousy job as president." But he didn't mind being targeted by Obama, and took it as a "great compliment."
Turning to the Democratic race, Obama praised Clinton saying: "You know, I know Hillary better than I know Bernie, because she's served in my administration, and she was an outstanding secretary of state."
"And I suspect that, on certain issues, she agrees with me more than Bernie does," he said.
But then added: "On the other hand, there may be a couple issues where Bernie agrees with me more. I don't know, I haven't studied their positions that closely."
"Ultimately, I will probably have an opinion on it, based on both -- (having) been a candidate of hope and change and a President who's got some nicks and cuts and bruises from -- you know, getting stuff done over the last seven years."
Meanwhile, A CNN/ORC survey found Trump holding a broad 16-point lead (38 percent to 22 percent) over his nearest rival Ted Cruz among those likely to vote in South Carolina's Republican primary this Saturday.
Cruz was followed by Rubio with 14 percent and Jeb Bush with 10 percent.
Hillary Clinton topped Bernie Sanders by 18 points (56 percent to 38 percent) in the state's Democratic primary, which will be held a week later.
Republicans by far see Trump as the strongest candidate to handle the economy, illegal immigration and fighting terrorism.
They also see him as the most likely to win in a general election. But on social issues and foreign policy, Trump holds only slim leads over Cruz.
Clinton won handily on all issues, with vast advantages on health care policy and race relations. Sanders did manage to keep it close on gun policy, an issue that some Democrats say he has been weak on.
However, according to the New York times Clinton's campaign is threatened by a generational schism as revealed by the New Hampshire primary where she lost the women's vote by 11 percentage points.
In the meantime, after bringing older brother and former president George Bush to fire up his sinking presidential campaign, Jeb Bush Tuesday tweeted an image of a gun engraved with "Gov. Jeb Bush" given to him by a gunmaker with the single-word caption "America."
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians. (IANS)