Former President Barack Obama reportedly expressed that he “would speak up to stop” Sen. Bernie Sanders if it seemed he was “running away” with the 2020 Democratic nomination.
The former commander-in-chief had allegedly made the remarks in private, according to a new Politico article by CNN analyst and Politico’s Chief Washington Correspondent Ryan Lizza.
Obama has reportedly been available to meet with the field of 2020 contenders, though not all have taken up to visit with him as if he were the source of wisdom like the ancient Oracle of Delphi.
“Not every declared candidate has met with Obama — Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard were notable no-shows — but he let it be known he was available to anyone seeking advice,” Lizza wrote, adding that the meetings allow “aspiring candidates to gain some wisdom” while Obama is able to “collect his own intelligence about what he and his closest advisers have made clear is all that matters to him: who can beat Donald Trump.”
“Publicly, he has been clear that he won’t intervene in the primary for or against a candidate, unless he believed there was some egregious attack,” Lizza reported. “Instead, he sees his role as providing guardrails to keep the process from getting too ugly and to unite the party when the nominee is clear.”
But there apparently is one deviation from this unwritten rule and it is connected to the 78-year-old Independent Vermont senator.
“There is one potential exception: Back when Sanders seemed like more of a threat than he does now, Obama said privately that if Bernie were running away with the nomination, Obama would speak up to stop him,” Lizza wrote in the Politico piece, adding that “a spokesperson for Obama pointed out that Obama recently said he would support and campaign for whoever the Democratic nominee is.”
According to Lizza:
When it comes to Sanders, I asked one close adviser whether Obama would really lay himself on the line to prevent a Sanders nomination. “I can’t really confirm that,” the adviser said. “He hasn’t said that directly to me. The only reason I’m hesitating at all is because, yeah, if Bernie were running away with it, I think maybe we would all have to say something. But I don’t think that’s likely. It’s not happening.” (Another close Obama friend said, “Bernie’s not a Democrat.”)
But Sanders is not the only one to have been targeted by Obama who “could credibly take some responsibility for winning back the House,” due to his campaign involvement ahead of the 2018 midterms, Lizza declared.
“Sometimes he offers candid advice about his visitors’ strengths and weaknesses. With several lesser-known candidates, according to people who have talked to him or been briefed on his meetings, he was blunt about the challenges of breaking out of a large field,” the article recounted.
“His advice is not always heeded. He told [Deval] Patrick earlier this year that it was likely ‘too late’ for him to secure “money and talent” if he jumped in the race,” Lizza added, before revealing Obama’s take on his former Vice President Joe Biden and his chances to connect with voters in states like Iowa.
Occasionally, he can be cutting. With one candidate, he pointed out that during his own 2008 campaign, he had an intimate bond with the electorate, especially in Iowa, that he no longer has. Then he added, “And you know who really doesn’t have it? Joe Biden.”
Biden was not among the many Democratic hopefuls who met with Obama over the last few months, though, as an Obama adviser told Lizza, Biden is an “exception” as he is “one of only two candidates who Obama knows at a familial, rather than strictly professional level.”
“As a rule of thumb, the closer one is to Obama personally, the less important the West End summit is,” Lizza added.
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