Obama offers a formal endorsement of Clinton; president also meets with Sanders

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June 10, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC – President Obama offered his formal endorsement of Hillary Clinton with a video Thursday and plans to campaign with the former secretary of state in Wisconsin next week, efforts aimed at speeding the Democratic Party’s unification around its presumed presidential nominee.

June 10, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC – President Obama offered his formal endorsement of Hillary Clinton with a video Thursday and plans to campaign with the former secretary of state in Wisconsin next week, efforts aimed at speeding the Democratic Party’s unification around its presumed presidential nominee.

U.S. President Barack Obama walks with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., down the Colonnade of the White House in Washington, Thursday, June 9, 2016. – AP Photo

“I know how hard this job can be, that’s why I know Hillary will be so good at it,” Obama says in the video. “In fact I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office. She’s got the courage, the compassion and the heart to get this job done.”

The swift endorsement came after the president met with Sen. Bernie Sanders at the White House earlier Thursday and the senator from Vermont indicated he is preparing to exit the Democratic nominating battle.

Sanders has been under pressure to stand down and help unify the party after a long and contentious battle with Clinton for the nomination. Obama’s endorsement will add to that pressure, although most party leaders, including the president, have urged that Sanders be allowed to decide his plans on his own timetable.

The president’s decision to move quickly to give his public support to Clinton indicates his desire to begin to play a more active role in making the case against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump as unqualified to be president and to try to rally those who have backed Sanders behind Clinton’s candidacy. Clinton and Obama will campaign together in Green Bay, Wis., her campaign confirmed.

In an interview with Bloomberg News, timed to correspond with the video’s release, Clinton welcomed Obama endorsement.

“It just means so much to have a strong, substantive endorsement from the president. Obviously I value his opinion a great deal personally,” Clinton said. “It’s just such a treat because over the years of knowing each other, we’ve gone from fierce competitors to true friends.”

The news of Obama’s endorsement was greeted with a tweet by Trump: “Obama just endorsed Crooked Hillary. He wants four more years of Obama—but nobody else does!”

After meeting with Obama, Sanders said he is looking forward to working with Clinton to defeat Trump in the fall.

“Needless to say, I’m going to do everything in my power, and I’m going to work as hard as I can, to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president of the United States,” he told reporters, as his wife, Jane, stood behind him.

Sanders said he still plans to compete in Tuesday’s final Democratic primary in the District, but he added that “in the near future” he hopes to meet with Clinton — who this week clinched the Democratic nomination — to talk about ways they can work together.

His comments suggested that Sanders is preparing to exit the long and grueling presidential race, as long as leading Democrats make a genuine effort to incorporate his policy ideas into their broader agenda.

After meeting with Obama, Sanders vows to stay in for D.C. primary

The hour-long meeting with Obama came on a busy day for Sanders in Washington, where he also has an early afternoon meeting planned on Capitol Hill with Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who has sought to play the role of peace broker at the end of a contentious nominating contest between Sanders and Clinton.

An afternoon meeting with Vice President Biden was also added to Sanders’s schedule for Thursday. The two are set to meet at the vice president’s residence at the Naval Observatory, said Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs.

“He is seeking out the counsel of people he admires and respects,” Briggs said of Sanders.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) (R) enters the Oval Office with President Barack Obama (L) as he arrives at the White House for a meeting June 9, 2016 in Washington, DC. Sanders met with President Obama after Hillary Clinton has clinched the Democratic nomination for president. © Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sanders said he would make statehood for the District a major focus of his campaign here, noting that it has a similar population to Vermont, which is represented by two senators and a congressman in Washington.

The rally comes four days ahead of the Democratic primary in the District. Twenty delegates are in play, but there is little at stake following Clinton’s clinching of the nomination this week, punctuated by her decisive win Tuesday in California, the nation’s most populous state.

Sanders has vowed to stay in the race through the Democratic convention in July, in a last-ditch bid to win the nomination by flipping the allegiance of hundreds of superdelegates who have already announced support for Clinton. A growing number of Sanders’s supporters have acknowledged that the scenario is far-fetched.

Increasingly, Sanders’s aim seems to be using the leverage that he and his millions of loyal followers now have to ensure that his campaign agenda — anchored around issues of income and wealth inequality — has a central place in the Democratic Party’s platform and general-election strategy.

 

[Sanders supporters more open to D.C. primary participation than longer battle against Clinton]

Following his meeting with Obama, Sanders ticked off several priorities, including: fighting childhood poverty, expanding Social Security benefits, reducing college debt, rebuilding the nation’s “crumbling” infrastructure and making corporations and wealthy individuals pay more in taxes.

The meetings with Obama and Reid come as a growing number of Democratic elders are nudging Sanders, with waning subtlety, to help unify the party around Clinton as she prepares for a nasty and unpredictable fall campaign against Trump, the Republican real estate mogul.

A senior administration official said that Obama told Sanders on Sunday that he was planning to endorse Clinton. The Sanders campaign asked that Obama wait until after meeting with Sanders, according to the administration official, who requested anonymity to speak more freely about private conversations.

The Obama video was taped on Tuesday, before Clinton had claimed victory, according to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.

Sanders’s 11:15 a.m. meeting Thursday with Obama was arranged at the senator’s request, according to the White House, and went longer than scheduled.

Standing before reporters after his meeting with Obama, Sanders began his remarks by thanking the president and the vice president “for the degree of impartiality” they showed throughout the primary after promising to stay neutral.

“What they said at the beginning is that they would not put their thumbs on the scale,” he said, “and in fact, they kept their word, and I appreciate that very, very much.”

After outlining the movement he has sought to create over the past year, saying he would continue to push for a more expansive federal government that would help the poor, senior citizens and young people, Sanders made clear he sees the Republican nominee as a more serious threat to U.S. society than seeing his own presidential hopes falter.

“Donald Trump would clearly, to my mind and to, I think, the majority of Americans, be a disaster as president of the United States,” he said. “It is unbelievable to me, and I say this with all sincerity, that the Republican Party would have a candidate for president, who in the year 2016 makes bigotry and discrimination the cornerstone of his campaign.”

Prior to the meeting, Obama and Sanders smiled and chatted as they walked along the White House colonnade Thursday, as a throng of White House reporters recorded the moment. They then walked into the Oval Office to have their private meeting.

White House officials said the meeting was not aimed at pressuring the senator to concede the race, but rather to discuss Sanders’s priorities and how to best incorporate them into the broader Democratic agenda.

“This is not a meeting about the logistics of the path forward, but about the policies and issues the party should be focused on moving forward,” said White House communications director Jennifer Psaki.

In an interview Wednesday taped for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” which will air in full Thursday night, Obama praised Sanders but also made it clear that his deliberations over dropping out of the race must end fairly soon. The president described the contested primary as “healthy,” adding that he understood why it would take someone time to relinquish their presidential hopes.

“And I thought Bernie Sanders brought enormous energy, and his new ideas, and he pushed the party and challenged them,” the president said. “I thought it made Hillary a better candidate. I think she is whip-smart. She is tough, and she deeply cares about working people and putting kids through school and making sure we’re growing our economy, and so my hope is that over the next couple of weeks, we’re able to pull things together.”

He noted that the attacks launched during a primary can leave everyone feeling “a little ouchy.”

“So there’s a natural process of everybody recognizing that this is not about any individual, but this is about the country and the direction we want to take it,” he said.

Still, speaking at a fundraiser later Wednesday evening, Obama made it clear that he sees the race for the Democratic nomination as over. “Now we just ended, or sort of ended, our primary season,” prompting laughter from the audience.

The president and Sanders have had five conversations since January, according to White House officials, two of which have been in person.

Reid has said that both Sanders and Clinton will have to play a role in forging Democratic unity moving forward.

As Sanders sat down in Reid’s Capitol suite Thursday afternoon, sitting on a chair across from Reid by a bookshelf, he sat silent as reporters asked him about the Obama endorsement.

“Okay you guys, we’re not going to take any questions,” Reid said as Sanders stared straight ahead with his hands on his knees. “That’s kind of the deal that I made.”

Sanders had not spoken to the media since Tuesday afternoon, prior to results being posted in the six primary states. Most notable in his interactions with voters, both in California and later with volunteers in Vermont, has been what has gone unsaid: He has not taken shots at Clinton or even mentioned her, save for a brief crack Tuesday about whether she received any votes in California.

Sanders lost four of the six primaries and caucuses on the calendar on Tuesday, including the two largest, New Jersey and California. He had hoped to make a real statement in California by beating Clinton by a sizable margin.

According to people close to him, battling on was an unsurprising but deeply personal decision made by Sanders on Tuesday at his hotel in Los Angeles as the results came in. In spite of the disappointing results and Clinton’s victory in California and three other states, Sanders remains convinced that the gains he has made and the movement he has led should not be quickly discarded in the name of party unity.

Sanders flew home on Wednesday to Burlington, the city where the self-described democratic socialist launched his political career and served as mayor prior to winning a seat in Congress.

After stepping off his campaign’s chartered flight from Los Angeles, the 74-year-old senator was greeted by a small crowd of cheering supporters. Sanders raised his hands in thanks and embraced volunteers who had waited at dusk for hours to be there. One man implored him, “Do not quit.”

“All right, go home. It’s cold,” Sanders joked.

As Sanders flew to Vermont with his family and staff, a campaign aide ventured to the back of the plane to speak with reporters.

The aide, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, said the campaign is preparing to make a major push on shaping the party platform at the Democratic National Convention next month.

When asked whether Sanders would be willing to be vetted as a possible vice-presidential candidate for Clinton, the aide flatly said it is “too premature” to answer the question.

An hour later, before ducking into a car in Burlington, Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver spoke to reporters and said the candidate was “upbeat.”

“No one is the nominee. The nominee is elected at the convention,” Weaver said when asked whether Sanders will acknowledge Clinton as the Democratic standard-bearer.

When asked whether Sanders considers her to be the presumptive nominee, Weaver shook his head. “That’s a term of art that the media uses,” he said.

“I think he’s very proud of the race that he has run and rightly so, and the race he continues to run,” he added, noting that Sanders is focused this week on reaching out to superdelegates and campaigning in Washington.

Both Weaver and Tad Devine, the campaign’s senior strategist, were on the flight back to Vermont with Sanders on Wednesday.

Devine is a veteran strategist who has deep Democratic ties and has become his liaison to some Clinton advisers. As top Democrats approach the Sanders campaign in this period of positioning and negotiating, Devine is a point of contact for many of them and is seen as a less combative figure than Weaver.


Courtesy: Washington Post