But some of his aides now concede that behind the scenes Obama played a role in nudging things in Biden’s direction at the crucial moment when the Biden team was organizing former candidates to coalesce around Biden.

“I know he did a few things,” said one longtime close adviser to Obama. “He was talking to Biden regularly in that period. I don’t know exactly what he said, but you can speculate! It’s noteworthy that he called Klobuchar and the others right when they got out.”

A person with knowledge of Obama’s conversation with Buttigieg after the former Indiana mayor exited the race explained it this way: “Obama talked to Pete the night that Pete dropped out. When Pete told Obama that he was 99.9 percent of the way there in terms of endorsing Biden, I would say that Obama was encouraging. But I would also say that Obama was very careful not to be seen as putting a thumb on the scale. He and the people close to him are very careful about the optics — the 2016-style optics. Sanders and his supporters had reason to believe the party put the thumb on the scale for Hillary in 2016 and he wanted to avoid that. Obama wasn’t the driving force, but he was encouraging of people who had those instincts to rally around Biden. But he was very cautious and discreet in how he operated.”