Barack Obama may not be backing any specific candidate, but the former president just put his stake in the ground to help defeat Donald Trump in next year's presidential election.
Obama on Friday announced a major initiative from the Democratic National Committee called the Unity Fund, which is meant to bring the party together around the eventual nominee in a coordinated and concerted effort to win back the presidency. As CNN reported, the effort appears to be a reaction to the fractions that emerged during the 2016 presidential campaign as a number of Bernie Sanders supporters -- along with Democrats who disagreed with Hillary Clinton -- chafed against voting for Clinton and sometimes led active campaigns to encourage supporters not to feel forced into voting for her.
The DNC itself came under fire after stolen emails were published by WikiLeaks, showing internal friction toward Bernie Sanders. The Vermont senator also spoke out against the DNC, insinuating that the race was tilted against him.
The announcement also placed Obama at the forefront of the Democratic Party, a position he appeared hesitant to take in the years after leaving office. Obama remained clear of the political scene for most of his first year out of office, but in recent months has become more vocal in opposition to Trump. Obama was also active on the campaign leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, appearing in support of candidates in key races and helping Democrats win back control of the House of Representatives.
The goal of the Unity Fund is to strengthen the DNC in supporting the eventual nominee and on developing get-out-the-vote efforts, which include a progressive voter database.
"The Democratic Unity Fund is a promise that whoever earns our nomination, he or she will have a strong, united, and well-organized DNC ready to spring into action the moment the general election starts -- a DNC that's ready to lift us all to victory in November," Obama wrote in an email to supporters, saying that the fund would support the creation of a "robust, dynamic party infrastructure."The Democratic field is unusually deep, with 23 candidates vying for the nomination including many with high stature in the party, including former Vice President Joe Biden and Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker. There had been speculation as to which candidate Obama might back, if any, but the latest announcement seems to hint that he will reserve making an endorsement until the candidate is chosen.