Old and Berned: We’re fighting on to the convention! Feel the New Bernity: We’re fighting on until, er … next Tuesday! Bernie Sanders reversed course this afternoon, about which more in a moment, after meeting with Barack Obama for a tête-a–tête. Obama must have successfully delivered the message that the race is over, probably by dropping the big one on Bernie:
JUST IN: Pres. Obama endorses Hillary Clinton for president. "I'm with her." https://t.co/T2liYuzsgl
— ABC News (@ABC) June 9, 2016
President Obama will offer his formal endorsement of Hillary Clinton with a video to be released later on Thursday and plans to campaign with the former secretary of state in Wisconsin next week, according to two sources familiar with the plans.
The swift endorsement comes after the president met with Sen. Bernie Sanders at the White House earlier Thursday as the Vermont senator mulls his options about exiting the Democratic nominating battle.
Swift indeed. The New York Times reported earlier this week that the outgoing president is, um, “eager” to begin campaigning, and almost certainly wanted Bernie sidelined first:
President Obama, after months of sitting on the sidelines of the rancorous contest to succeed him, is now ready to aggressively campaign for Hillary Clinton, starting with a formal endorsement of her candidacy as early as this week.
The White House is in active conversations with Mrs. Clinton’s campaign about how and where the president would be useful to her, according to senior aides to Mr. Obama.
Advisers say the president, who sees a Democratic successor as critical to his legacy, is impatient to begin campaigning.
Looks like the message got through loud and clear. After meeting with Barack Obama, Sanders changed his tune and his goals. In his remarks after the meeting, the Democratic Party’s runner-up for the presidential nominee only committed to staying in the race until the Washington DC primary on Tuesday, and then mostly to highlight the push for DC statehood.
After that, Sanders hinted that he’ll switch from pursuing superdelegates to campaigning against Donald Trump:
“Needless to say, I am going to do everything in my power, and I will work as hard as I can to make sure Donald Trump does not become president of the United States,” the Vermont senator said.
Sanders said he phoned Clinton after Tuesday’s primaries to congratulate her on her “strong campaign” and said they would speak soon about “how we can work together to defeat Donald Trump and to create a government that represents all of us and not just the one percent.”
Sanders didn’t go so far as to offer an explicit endorsement, but it seems clear that one will be forthcoming after the DC primary. The change in rhetoric about the end of the campaign signals that Obama has probably succeeded in convincing Sanders to begin closing ranks behind Hillary.
Howard Dean, who knows how Sanders feels right now, said before the meeting that Sanders needed to wake up pretty quickly to that reality:
“This is a critical juncture, which I’m not sure he has yet understood. How he leaves this race and what he does afterward matters a lot,” Dean, the former presidential candidate and Hillary Clinton supporter, said on “Special Relationship,” a joint podcast with Mic and The Economist.
“He could end up being the next Ralph Nader, who deprives the Democrats of the Congress and ends up electing, well I don’t know what to call Donald Trump but certainly nothing flattering. If he sustains his movement, as we did in our campaign, he could be very successful in changing the course of American politics.” …
“I think he’s struggling … the race is over, he hasn’t acted like it,” said Dean, who became Democratic National Committee chairman after his failed run.
“The sooner he comes to grips on what he’s going to do between now and November, we’ll find out what his legacy will be.”
The next Ralph Nader isn’t meant as a compliment, but until today it looked like a theoretical possibility. Given the personal nature of the attacks on Sanders from Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other leadership over the past few weeks, Sanders could have been eyeing an option to literally follow in Nader’s footsteps and jump in with the Green Party. What did Obama promise him in exchange for unity — er, Bernity? We may not know right away, but Wasserman Schultz might want to grow some eyes behind her political back.
Watch Sanders’ full statement that, as KCRovin noted on Twitter, sounded like a litany of disappointments with the administration that has been in place for the last seven-plus years. If this is the beginning of party unity, more than a few of Sanders’ followers will end up feeling Berned, all right: