Obama To Democratic Donors: The Sanders Campaign Is Nearing Its End
President Obama told a group of Democratic donors that the Sanders campaign is nearing its end and that they need to start uniting behind Hillary Clinton.
The New York Times reports that President Obama is privately telling Democratic donors that it’s time to unite behind Hillary Clinton:
In unusually candid remarks, President Obama privately told a group of Democratic donors last Friday that Senator Bernie Sanders is nearing the point where his campaign against Hillary Clinton will come to an end, and that the party must soon come together to back her.
Mr. Obama acknowledged that Mrs. Clinton is perceived to have weaknesses as a candidate, and that some Democrats did not view her as authentic.
But he played down the importance of authenticity, noting that President George W. Bush — whose record he ran aggressively against in 2008 — was once praised for his authenticity.
Mr. Obama made the remarks after reporters had left a fund-raising event in Austin, Tex., for the Democratic National Committee. The comments were described by three people in the room for the event, all of whom were granted anonymity to describe a candid moment with the president. The comments were later confirmed by a White House official.
Mr. Obama chose his words carefully, and did not explicitly call on Mr. Sanders to depart the race, according to those in the room. Still, those in attendance said in interviews that they took his comments as a signal to Mr. Sanders that perpetuating his campaign, which is now an uphill climb, could only help the Republicans recapture the White House.
Mr. Obama’s message came at a critical juncture for Mr. Sanders, who had just upset Mrs. Clinton in the Michigan primary and has been trying to convince Democrats that his campaign is not over, despite Mrs. Clinton’s formidable lead in the delegate tally.
Mr. Obama has been careful in public to avoid disparaging Mr. Sanders, given his deeper history and relationship with Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Obama also does not want to alienate the liberal voters who have flocked to Mr. Sanders.
Mr. Obama acknowledged what have emerged as the central complaints about Mrs. Clinton among Democratic activists: that she is not generating enough excitement in her campaign, and lacks the “authenticity” of Mr. Sanders.
Those in attendance described an urgency in Mr. Obama’s tone as he suggested that Democrats needed to come together to prevent an opening for the Republicans, whose leading candidate is Donald J. Trump, to exploit.
Mr. Obama addressed the group four nights before Tuesday’s nominating contests, in which Mrs. Clinton was heavily favored. As it happened, Mrs. Clinton won at least four of the five states that voted — Missouri has yet to be called — further padding her lead in the race for delegates.
Mr. Obama indicated that he knew some people were not “excited” by Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy, a White House official confirmed.
But, while he stressed that he was not endorsing either candidate, and that both would make good presidents, Mr. Obama went on to lavish praise on Mrs. Clinton, describing her as smart, tough and experienced, and said that she would continue the work of his administration. Mr. Sanders has very publicly criticized Mr. Obama on certain policies and has called for a “political revolution.”
Mr. Obama said that he understood the appeal to voters of a candidate who is authentic, the official said. But he also reminded the Texas donors in the room that Mr. Bush was considered authentic when he was running for president, suggesting that being authentic did not necessarily translate into being a good president, in his view.
For the most part, President Obama has continued the practice of previous two-term Presidents and maintained his neutrality in the race for his party’s nomination while the process was still going on. As in the past when it was clear that President Reagan favored Vice-President Bush in the 1988 Presidential primaries, and that President Clinton favored Vice-President Gore in 2000, this silence is often just a formality and that’s really been no different in this case. Notwithstanding whatever bad blood may have existed between Obama and the Clintons in the past, it’s been clear for some time that President Obama would prefer Hillary Clinton to succeed him as the Democratic nominee. In no small part, of course, this is likely because Obama has long viewed Clinton as the Democrat most likely to be able to win the General Election rather than because of any particular admiration that Obama may have for Clinton at this point in their complicated relationship. Whatever the reason, though, this latest report is just the latest indication where the Presidents preferences lie.
The interesting thing about these statements, though, is that it doesn’t seem as though they are likely to have much of an impact on Bernie Sanders or his campaign. For one thing, Sanders has not been relying on the kind of high dollar donors that Obama was speaking to at this gathering. For the most part, this group of people has either gotten behind Clinton already or they’ve waited on the sidelines while she fought out the primary battle with Sanders. When it comes to fundraising, most of Sanders money has come from individual donors who were most likely not among the audience that the President was speaking to when he made these remarks. Moreover, reports that President Obama is telling rich Democrats that its time for Bernie Sanders to give up, which is the clear implication of what the President is saying here, seem just as likely to cause Sanders supporters to rally behind their candidate even more notwithstanding the fact that his candidacy is indeed a lost cause at this point.