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Former President Barack Obama “nudged” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) out of the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, holding “long conversations” with the Vermont socialist over the last couple of weeks, trying his best to press Sanders out of the primary in service of defeating President Donald Trump.
“For months, [Obama] kept in close contact with senior party officials, in hopes of preventing a repeat of the protracted and nasty 2016 primary race,” the Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday, echoing suggestions from earlier in the year that Obama was playing a considerable “behind the scenes” role, streamlining the race for the Democratic nod.
The New York Times gave Obama even more credit in a retrospective of the former president’s involvement in the 2020 campaign, published on Tuesday. In it, the NYT claims Obama was quietly involved in his former Vice President’s decisions, guiding Joe Biden through campaign shakeups and helping to clear the field once Biden had notched a few victories.
“Mr. Obama did not directly encourage Mr. Sanders’s rivals to endorse Mr. Biden ahead of the decisive Super Tuesday primaries,” the NYT reports. “But he did tell Pete Buttigieg, a moderate, that he would never have more leverage than on the day that he was quitting the race — and the former South Bend mayor soon joined the avalanche of former candidates backing Mr. Biden.”
Similar arguments were likely directed at Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who dropped out just one day after Buttigieg and appeared alongside Biden at a Super Tuesday rally in Dallas, Texas. Obama was reported to also be speaking with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), but she clearly took longer to convince. Warren has not yet endorsed Biden.
Obama’s crowning achievement appears to have come last week, when he convinced Sanders, through a series of deep talks, that Sanders should drop out and negotiate a “detente” with the Democratic establishment.
“In the weeks after it became clear that Mr. Biden was the party’s near-certain nominee, Mr. Obama — telling a friend he needed to ‘accelerate the endgame’ — had at least four long conversations with his former vice president’s remaining rival, Senator Bernie Sanders,” the NYT says. “Mr. Obama’s efforts to ease the senator out of the race played a significant role in Mr. Sanders’s decision to end his bid and endorse Mr. Biden, according to people close to the Vermont independent.”
Sanders will now play a significant role in Biden’s campaign and, in return, Biden has placed the Senator and some of his top aides on policy committees charged with laying the groundwork for a Biden administration approach to the economy, climate change, and a host of other issues.
That’s notable because Obama is said to have told a group of high-profile Democrats just months ago that he intended to step in to prevent Sanders from exerting influence on the party and to head off any substantial move leftward.
On Tuesday, Obama officially endorsed Biden for president in a video posted to Twitter.
“Choosing Joe to be my Vice President was one of the best decisions I ever made, and he became a close friend,” Obama said. “And I believe Joe has all the qualities we need in a president right now. He’s someone whose own life has taught him how to persevere; how to bounce back when you’ve been knocked down.”