News and Commentary

Obama: ‘I Don’t Care’ If You Like the Nominee, Just Vote Democrat
US President Barack Obama (R) walks with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders through the Colonnade for a meeting in the Oval Office on June 9, 2016 at the White House in Washington, DC.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Former president Barack Obama doesn’t care if his fellow Democrats like the 2020 candidate, he just wants them to pull the lever for whoever wins the nomination.

“Everybody needs to chill out about the candidates, but gin up about the prospect of rallying behind whoever emerges from this process,” Obama told tech leaders during a fundraiser in Silicon Valley on Thursday.

There are 16 candidates still running for the Democratic nomination, but only four are polling in double digits. A bunch are at 1% or even 0%. But Obama said whoever gets the nod should get the vote.

“There will be differences” between the candidates, Obama said, “but I want us to make sure that we keep in mind that, relative to the ultimate goal, which is to defeat a president and a party that has … taken a sharp turn away from a lot of the core traditions and values and institutional commitments that built this country,” those differences are “relatively minor.”

“The field will narrow and there’s going to be one person, and if that is not your perfect candidate and there are certain aspects of what they say that you don’t agree with and you don’t find them completely inspiring the way you’d like, I don’t care,” he said. “Because the choice is so stark and the stakes are so high that you cannot afford to be ambivalent in this race.”

So, Obama is saying that voters should blindly vote for whoever has a D next to their name, whether they like the candidate or not.

Many Democratic voters are bored silly by the current slate of candidates — which has prompted two others, Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to enter the race. Last month, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, for instance, drew fewer than 100 people to a South Carolina “Environmental Justice” forum. And she’s a frontrunner!

Gallup released a poll last week that had some troubling news for Democrats. Just 66% of the party faithful say they’re enthusiastic about the upcoming election. For the Republicans, the number is 65%. “This differs from the typical pattern Gallup has seen over the years, whereby those who identify with the political party of the incumbent president have been less enthusiastic about voting than members of the opposing party,” Gallup wrote.

Here’s what that means: Voters in the party not currently in the White House are usually far more enthusiastic than the incumbent’s supporters. In 2000, after eight years of Bill Clinton, Republicans enjoyed a 51% to 39% enthusiasm edge. In 2008, after two George W. Bush terms, Democrats were up 14 percentage points — 73% to 59%. And in 2016, after two Barack Obama terms, the GOP led by 8 percentage points — 51% to 43%.

Obama isn’t the only one saying Democrats might need to hold their nose when they vote for the eventual nominee. Joe Biden’s wife, Jill, said in August that her husband might not be the best candidate, but told voters “maybe you have to swallow a little bit” and vote for him anyway.

“Your candidate might be better on, I don’t know, health care, than Joe is,” Jill Biden said on MSNBC, “but you’ve got to look at who’s going to win this election, and maybe you have to swallow a little bit and say, ‘OK, I personally like so-and-so better,’ but your bottom line has to be that we have to beat Trump.”

During a campaign stop in New Hampshire, she repeated the point. “I know that not all of you are committed to my husband, and I respect that. But I want you to think about your candidate, his or her electability, and who’s going to win this race. So I think if your goal — I know my goal — is to beat Donald Trump, we have to have someone who can beat him,” she said.