Still the reluctant leader of the Democratic Party, Obama has been providing counsel to Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and other presidential hopefuls.
Barack Obama has in recent months met with at least nine prospective 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Deval Patrick, pulling them in for one-on-one sessions at his Washington office.
All the meetings were arranged quietly, without even some close advisers to the people involved being told of the conversations, in part because of how much Obama bristles at his private meetings becoming public knowledge. All have been confirmed to POLITICO by multiple people who have been briefed on the secretive sit-downs.
The meetings have been at Obama’s personal office on the third floor of the World Wildlife Fund building in D.C.’s West End neighborhood, and they show how a stream of ambitious, searching politicians are looking for guidance and support from the man who has remained the reluctant leader of the Democratic Party, eager to be involved, though not directly. He’s not making any promises of support, though, and is not expected to endorse in the 2020 race until after a nominee has emerged.
Obama so far has avoided direct conflict with President Donald Trump — save for a few public statements criticizing his moves attempting to dismantle the Iran nuclear deal, Obamacare and the protection program for Dreamers, though without naming Trump.
But Obama is concerned about how his own party is responding, and how it can be best positioned to win in the midterms and in the next presidential cycle to beat back the president and his politics.
A single-payer health care advocate in South Texas. A gun restriction supporter in Dallas. Cheerleaders in Arkansas and Iowa for public option health care.
Weeks into the primary season, with five more states voting Tuesday, Democrats’ midterm class is shaping up to test what liberal messages the party can sell to the moderate and GOP-leaning voters who will help determine control of the House after the November election.
It’s not one size fits all, with every candidate checking every box wanted by the activists driving the opposition to President Donald Trump and the GOP Congress, and Democratic voters typically aren’t tapping the most liberal choices in targeted districts. But, taken together, the crop of nominees is trending more liberal than many of the “Blue Dog” Democrats swept away in Republicans’ 2010 midterm romp.
That means voters now represented by a Republican will be asked to consider some or all of the mainstream Democratic priorities that may have been considered “too liberal” in the past: more government involvement in health insurance, tighter gun laws, a path to citizenship for people in the country illegally, reversing parts of the GOP tax law, support for LGBTQ rights.
“You have ballpark 60 districts as diverse as Kansas and Staten Island. One bumper-sticker message will be self-defeating,” said former congressman Steve Israel of New York, who led Democrats’ national House campaign in 2012.
The question is whether that path results in Democrats gaining the 23 new seats they need for a majority.