Former Vice President Joe Biden formally joined the Democratic presidential contest in late April, cementing his place atop national and key primary state polls.
The Delaware Democrat campaign’s strategy of “limited exposure,” as The Washington Post put it, with limited appearances and a strategy of relying on universal name recognition appears to be working. According to a RealClear Politics average of polling data, Biden, despite some setbacks, remains the absolute front-runner.
Not everyone wanted Biden to run, however. A new report from The New York Times details the complicated relationship between Biden and former President Barack Obama.
In 2016, when Biden signaled willingness to enter the presidential race, Obama “quietly pressured” him against doing so. The former president believed in his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, estimating that she would be the best candidate to build upon his legacy, and not Biden, who had just gone through an emotional crisis following the tragic passing of his son, Beau.
Before Biden entered the 2020 race, Obama offered words of caution.
“You don’t have to do this, Joe, you really don’t,” Obama told Biden earlier this year, according to the New York Times.
“Mr. Biden — who thinks he could have defeated Donald Trump four years ago — responded by telling Mr. Obama he could never forgive himself if he turned down a second shot at Mr. Trump.”
According to the report, although Obama has made it known that he will not make a formal endorsement in the primary, he has offered his counsel to almost every candidate in the race, including his former right hand man. Obama and Biden have met a number of times, and the former president has even criticized Biden’s campaign team for being “too old” and “out of touch with the current political climate.”
Obama urged Biden to hire younger staffers in order to connect with younger voters, even summoning top campaign officials Anita Dunn and Kate Bedingfield to his Washington office for a conversation during which he offered advice on digital and communications strategy.
Obama told Biden’s advisers that they need to make sure the former vice president does not “embarrass himself” or “damage his legacy,” whether he wins the nomination or not.
But, as the NYT notes, the Obama-Biden legacy has already come into question. More progressive candidates have made attempts to move beyond the Obama administration’s signature positions, offering more progressive solutions to issues such as health care, regulation, criminal justice, and immigration.
During the most recent Democratic debate, New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker blasted Biden for invoking Obama “more than anybody in this campaign.”
“You can’t do it when it’s convenient and then dodge it when it’s not,” Booker told the former vice president.
As The Atlantic noted, although candidates have mostly refrained from directly criticizing Obama and therefore questioning the Obama-Biden legacy, some of them have significant policy differences with the former president.