Barack Obama Willing To Intervene In Democratic Primary To Stop Bernie Sanders From Winning, Say Insiders

A video of former president Barack Obama shows on a monitor at the new exhibition; Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders exits the stage after speaking during a campaign event.
Spencer Platt / Joshua Lott / Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama is increasingly moving off the political sidelines, weighing in on the 2020 presidential election and offering advice to Democrats looking to challenge President Donald Trump. Obama’s recent suggestion, that the Democratic Party is moving “too far left,” and potentially alienating key voting blocs, were sternly repudiated by the very “activist wing” of the party he criticized, with progressive firebrand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stating that the party is actually being brought home, embracing its New Deal roots.

Obama’s intervention in Democratic politics is not going to end with commentary and covert attacks aimed at the party’s left flank, it seems. According to a new report from Politico, the former president is looking to make his presence known, likely by attending fundraisers, holding meetings, offering advice, and generally meddling in the primary process.

According to insiders Politico spoke to, the extent of Obama’s intervention in the primary race will depend on who emerges as the front-runner. If Vermont Independent and the country’s most prominent left-winger, Sen. Bernie Sanders, comes close to winning the nomination, Obama will do what he can to prevent such an outcome, those close to the former president suggested.

“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,” the report says.

A glance at the RealClearPolitics average of polling data reveals that Sanders entered the race as the front-runner, only to drop in the polls once former Vice President Joe Biden joined the contest. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren briefly captured the No. 2 spot in national polls, but Sanders has since reclaimed it, and now appears to be, once again, Biden’s most formidable challenger.

Discussing the possibility of Obama intervening in the race to prevent a Sanders nomination, an adviser explained that such interference is only likely if Sanders comes close to winning.

“I can’t really confirm that. 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 individual familiar with the former president’s thinking dismissed Sanders.

“Bernie’s not a Democrat,” they said.

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Even though the electorate seems to be embracing Sanders’ progressive populism — as primary race polling suggests, with Sanders as one of the front-runners — Obama remains exceptionally popular. As Politico notes, the former president is the most popular Democrat in the country, with high favorability and approval ratings, which suggests that his intervention could significantly alter the dynamics of the race.

Obama is not the only prominent Democrat willing to fight against Sanders. As The New York Times reported, an unofficial “Stop Sanders” coalition — made up of party leaders, donors, and think tank heads — has formed, determined to thwart the senator’s movement.