Despite having no reasonable chance of winning the Democratic presidential nomination, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has consistently defied calls from fellow Democrats for him to cede the contest to the party’s presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton. So on Thursday, President Obama for all practical purposes ended Sanders’ campaign for him.
Sanders met with Obama in the White House Thursday morning, two days after he vowed to press his case for the Democratic presidential nomination all the way to the party convention at the end of July. Not long after the meeting concluded, the Clinton campaign released a pre-recorded video message from Obama in which he endorsed Clinton as the Democratic nominee, saying, “I don’t think there has ever been someone so qualified to hold this office.”
Obama’s decision to endorse Clinton prior to the convention and while her opponent continues to campaign sends an unmistakable message: The primary is effectively over, and Clinton should be free to focus on defeating the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump.
In the video, Obama praised Clinton’s toughness and judgment and even appeared to give her partial credit for the decision to approve the special forces mission that killed Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, referring to it as “the decision we made in the Situation Room.”
He said, “I’m fired up, and I cannot wait to get out there and campaign for Hillary.”
But Obama was also careful to reach out to Sanders’ ardent supporters. He gave Sanders credit for inspiring young voters and for bringing issues of social justice and corporate influence in politics to the fore.
“Embracing that message is going to help us win in November,” he said.
Only a little while before the video was released, Sanders had emerged from the White House meeting with Obama to address reporters. He again vowed to push on through July, but his tone was more subdued than usual.
He rattled off the issues that he says he will press the Democratic Party to confront between now and then, including his call to raise Social Security benefits, fighting child poverty, and improving the lives of Americans living in inner cities, rural areas and Native American reservations. He touched on high levels of student debt, the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, and of course “Wall Street, corporate America, and billionaires failing to pay their fair share in taxes.”
However, though he has frequently been accused of helping the Donald Trump campaign by forcing Clinton to respond to his attacks from the left, Sanders left no doubt about where he would come down in an eventual Clinton versus Trump election.
“Donald Trump would clearly, in my mind and I think the majority of Americans, be a disaster as president of the United States,” he said. “It is unbelievable to me, and I say this in all sincerity, that the Republican Party would have a candidate for president who in the year 2016 makes bigotry and discrimination the cornerstone of his campaign.”
He added, “Needless to say, I will do everything in my power and I will work as hard as I can to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president of the United States.”
He said that earlier this week he had spoken to Clinton and congratulated her on winning California. He said, “I look forward to meeting with her in the near future to see how we how we can work together to defeat Donald Trump and to create a government that represents all of us and not just the 1 percent.”
That last may have been a veiled swipe at Clinton, whom he has accused of catering to the whims of Wall Street. But the overall impact of Sanders’ statement was to give the impression that his campaign is winding down, and that in the end, like Obama, he will fall in line behind Clinton.