Former President Barack Obama had several meetings with Senator Bernie Sanders during which he reportedly urged the Democratic presidential nominee to step out of the race. According to The New York Times, Obama urged frontrunner Joe Biden to “accelerate the endgame” in order to focus on the general election.
According to people close to Sanders, it was Obama’s urging that helped impact his thinking on whether or not to leave the 2020 race after a series of disappointing primary results.
Obama has appeared to stay fairly neutral during the Democratic primary, despite his friend and former vice president being in the race. But now that seems to have changed.
After it became clear that Biden would likely nab the party’s nomination, Obama had at least four lengthy conversations with Sanders in order to apparently encourage the senator to end his bid for president. He also encouraged him to put his support behind Biden.
“In late March, Mr. Obama reached out to Mr. Sanders. The two men would talk at least three more times, with the former president reassuring Mr. Sanders that he had already accomplished much of what he had set out to do, moving the party — and Mr. Biden — substantially to the left, according to two people with knowledge of their interactions,” The New York Times reports.
When it comes to the other potential Democratic presidential nominees, it appears Obama didn’t encourage any of them to support one candidate over another. However, he did tell former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg that he would experience a good deal of political leverage on the day he quit the race. Buttigieg dropped out and went on to endorse Biden.
Sanders has also placed his support behind Biden.
In a deviation from the 2016 Democratic primary, Sanders hasn’t levied any accusations against Obama for trying to rally the Democratic establishment behind Biden. In 2016, he claimed party leaders were trying to rally Democrats around failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton instead of allowing for a fair competition between the two primary candidates.
It seems this time around, Sanders has reportedly been grateful that Obama chose to remain neutral during the primary campaign, and the Vermont senator has reached out to Obama several times in recent months to discuss his campaign, though he has kept the content of those conversations private.
“Mr. Sanders, for his part, is intent on protecting his open line of communication with the former president. When asked for a readout during an interview on MSNBC shortly after dropping out last week, he replied, ‘They’re private conversations,’ waving a don’t-even-ask-me-about-it hand at the camera,” The New York Times reported.