Former President Barack Obama had only nice things to say about his former vice president Thursday following Joe Biden’s decision to announce his candidacy for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, but Obama stopped well short of endorsing Biden for the job.
MSNBC reports that Obama issued a lukewarm statement through his spokesperson, praising Biden exclusively for his work during the Obama administration.
“President Obama has long said that selecting Joe Biden as his running mate in 2008 was one of the best decisions he ever made,” Obama spokesperson Katie Hill told the network. “He relied on the Vice President’s knowledge, insight, and judgment throughout both campaigns and the entire presidency. The two forged a special bond over the last 10 years and remain close today.”
That’s more than Obama has offered other candidates — and he hasn’t yet endorsed anyone in the 2020 Democratic primary — but Biden’s campaign was likely hoping for more than tepid commentary on the eight years the pair spent together, particularly given that Biden was instrumental in pushing some of Obama’s key legislative achievements, including the Affordable Care Act.
Obama has other priorities, though, it seems. As The Daily Wire reported some weeks ago, Obama has been meeting privately with a number of potential Democratic nominees at his Washington, D.C., office, including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and former Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, to give them advice on how best to run their campaigns. His goal, apparently, is to select a candidate for endorsement that will carry forward his legacy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s out to endorse his former vice president.
The question for Obama will be whether he’s willing to endorse a true extension of his own presidency or whether he’ll wait and see which Democratic candidate pulls out ahead in the weeks to come.
For their part, Biden’s campaign claims they didn’t ask Obama for strong words. In fact, as David Rutz from The Washington Free Beacon reports, Biden’s camp is insisting that they explicitly asked Obama not to endorse Biden so that Biden could “make his case” all on his own.
— David Rutz (@DavidRutz) April 25, 2019
That might be a little like a dateless high school senior saying he actually wanted to go to prom stag so as to keep his options open, which isn’t a good look for a campaign that’s less than 12 hours old — particularly one that is looking to bill itself as a “return to normalcy” rather than one dedicated to major progressive change.
Biden announced his candidacy in the wee hours of Thursday morning with a video posted to social media taking on President Donald Trump directly rather than wasting time on attacking other potential Democratic nominees. That’s a big departure from other campaigns, many of which are competing to run as far to the left as possible, especially now with the first primary debates just around the corner.
The objective for Biden is clear: draw Trump into a one-on-one — a “dress rehearsal” for the final campaign — rather than spend time dodging concerns from candidates with far less than Biden’s 25% of the vote.