In a pretty interesting Politico feature about former President Barack Obama and his thinking on the 2020 race, we learned that while many of the current candidates have made the “pilgrimage” to see Obama in his palatial Washington digs, none have earned his endorsement quite yet. Obama’s main focus, they report, is not which candidate most closely matches his own ideological stance but rather which one is best positioned to defeat President Trump next year.
One of the most interesting parts of this story is this clip, where we see what Obama really thinks of the main frontrunner:
Sometimes he offers candid advice about his visitors’ strengths and weaknesses. With several lesser-known candidates, according to people who have talked to him or been briefed on his meetings, he was blunt about the challenges of breaking out of a large field. His advice is not always heeded. He told Patrick earlier this year that it was likely “too late” for him to secure “money and talent” if he jumped in the race. Occasionally, he can be cutting. With one candidate, he pointed out that during his own 2008 campaign, he had an intimate bond with the electorate, especially in Iowa, that he no longer has. Then he added, “And you know who really doesn’t have it? Joe Biden.”
Well, that has to sting, seeing as how Biden’s whole campaign is built on the idea that he’s the closest thing to Obama in the race. But then, we’ve already learned that Obama leaned on Biden earlier in the year, softly encouraging him to stay out of the race.
“The two men spoke at least a half dozen times before Mr. Biden decided to run, and Mr. Obama took pains to cast his doubts about the campaign in personal terms,” wrote The New York Times. “‘You don’t have to do this, Joe, you really don’t,’ Mr. Obama told Mr. Biden earlier this year, according to a person familiar with the exchange.”
We don’t doubt for a second that Obama will stump for Joe if he wins the nomination, but it’s clear that the former president would prefer someone with a bit more political charisma. Question is: Who would that be? The Politico piece says that Obama would come off the sidelines if Bernie Sanders were to emerge as the Democratic frontrunner, which indicates to us that he thinks Bernie is a general election loser.
But when you look down the field, who else stands a chance? Warren would get crushed. Buttigieg can’t get black voters on board, with or without Obama. When you really examine the weakness of this crop of candidates, you can see why Michael Bloomberg jumped in (even though we can’t see him doing any better). It’s a sad sight. Obama and the rest of the Democrat electorate might want to settle in and get comfortable with another four years of Trump.