President Barack Obama delivers the State of Union address before a joint session of Congress in the House chamber Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Larry Downing, Pool)
It turns out that former President Obama is a little more interested in the race for the Democratic nomination than we’ve been led to believe. We’ve mistaken his public silence as evidence that he is quietly observing from a distance.
A little-noticed article published on Monday evening by NBC News entitled, “Looking for Obama’s hidden hand in candidates coalescing around Biden,” suggests the former President may be more involved than we thought.
Following Biden’s spectacular victory in South Carolina on Saturday night, Obama called him. This, in and of itself, means very little. More consequential, however, is the new information that Obama had called Pete Buttigieg on Sunday. Obviously, no one knows what the two discussed.
As Democrats begin to coalesce around Joe Biden as the moderate alternative to Bernie Sanders, there appears to be a quiet hand behind the rapid movement: former President Barack Obama.
Obama spoke with his former vice president after he handily won the South Carolina primary on Saturday, and with Pete Buttigieg on Sunday when he dropped out of the Democratic race, according to people familiar with the calls.
Buttigieg will travel from South Bend, Indiana to Dallas Monday and endorse Biden, multiple people familiar with the plan tell NBC News.
People close to Obama said the former president has been keeping close tabs on the race. They said the signal has been sent in the past 36 hours that he sees Biden as the candidate to back, and they don’t need Obama to say it publicly or privately.
“He’s not going to get involved in endorsing anyone for this nomination,” Biden told NBC’s Mike Memoli on Monday. “But I think he will make sure that, you know, the party is united at the end of the day, and as I will, whether I win or not.”
Did Obama call on Mayor Pete to drop out and endorse Biden? Who knows?
What we do know is that a political miracle occurred in a period of 72 hours. The Biden campaign went from near-death to the top of the heap in a very short time. Former interim DNC chair Donna Brazile told colleagues, “This is the most impressive 72 hours I’ve ever seen in American politics. A candidate who was simply hanging by his little bit of supporters came back.”
And indeed it was. The events which occurred during those 72 hours have reshaped the race. Biden outperformed the most optimistic expectations in South Carolina, and the withdrawal of Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar and their subsequent endorsements added enormous momentum to his flagging campaign.
It is important to note that NBC spoke to Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s press secretary on Monday, who said the candidate had not spoken to Obama.
Still, how was such a dramatic reversal made possible?
Looks like the DNC, panicked over Sanders’ wins in Iowa (albeit votes, not delegates), New Hampshire, and Nevada and his surge in the polls, had a busy 72 hours themselves. Knowing that Sanders would almost certainly lose to Trump in a general election, they went into overdrive to ensure that doesn’t happen. Operation Torpedo Sanders and Elect Biden was born.
Townhall’s Matt Vespa writes that there’s been bad blood between Obama and Sanders for a long time. In fact, in 2012 Sanders had considered “a primary challenge to Obama” which “spurred then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to intervene and put the kibosh on it.”
I’m not suggesting that Obama did anything illegal or improper even if he did ask Buttigieg to quit the race and support Biden. This is just politics. I’m merely saying that Obama is both interested and involved.