Eight years after they faced off in a bruising primary campaign, President Barack Obama endorsed his one-time primary opponent—former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
And, to paraphrase Clinton, the Democrats just put a village to work against Donald J. Trump. Led by a powerful trifecta of elders—Barack, Hillary, and Bill—the Democrats have two jobs: coalesce and energize support among non-white voters and introduce the country to the real Trump on the campaign trail.
Not only will Obama will help Clinton (and her husband) pitch and mend fences in the black community, he’ll build enthusiasm in places where she could not find it. Clinton, who supported her husband’s 1994 Crime Bill, was repeatedly challenged on the campaign trail to defend calling young black boys “super predators.” She never found a good answer and seems to exacerbate the issue. It may well come up again, but this time she will be flanked by President Obama, the first lady and, likely, former Attorney General Eric Holder, who has already endorsed her candidacy.
Expect them to speak in plain terms about what’s really at stake. They will talk about the potential for more conservatives on Supreme Court like a pot of greens burning on the stove. You may not actually hear the words “black lives matter,” but they will talk about the real impacts of mass incarceration, the necessity of meaningful gun control and police accountability.
While the one president moves from city to city, whipping up African-American turnout, another—Bill Clinton—could employ his folksy charisma to smoke out Trump on a cavalcade of issues. You can expect the presidential duo to remind voters about Trump’s racism—especially the repeated attacks he made on a sitting federal judge. The former president remains immensely popular among other black voters, but his real job may be to go after independents by painting Trump as a money-grubbing charlatan who doesn’t give an iota about working class people.
And just when Trump thinks he has seen enough, Sen. Elizabeth Warren—who is also expected to endorse the former cabinet secretary today—will continue delivering stinging body blows. Trump may rue the day he ever called her “Pocahontas.”
Back in 2008, when tempers ran hot and the verbal fisticuffs flew like a prize-fight, this day might have been hard to imagine. Even so, that the president—now at the height of his popularity, not to mention relatively low unemployment numbers and gas prices—would put his political weight behind Clinton comes as no surprise. Calling the stakes too high, Obama said, pointing to a potential Trump presidency, “I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office.”
After losing California by 13 points, widening an already insurmountable lead, Senator Bernie Sanders agreed to meet with the president today. Presumably they talked about his road forward and how he might continue to influence the Democratic party platform. And there are serious matters to hash out as Clinton attempts to forge a new coalition of voters ahead of the fall contest. But the truth is, the train was already leaving the station before Sanders stepped onto the White House grounds.
Discussions between administration official and the Clinton camp started days, if not weeks ago—the scripted announcement pre-written and taped. The video, posted on Clinton’s Facebook page, was released just hours after the Vermont senator strode out of the Oval Office and met with a waiting bank of reporters.
“Look, I know how hard this job can be, that’s why I know Hillary will be so good at it,” Obama said. “In fact, I don’t think there’s ever been anyone so qualified to hold this office. She’s got the courage, the compassion, and the heart to get the job done.”
The president waited to deliver his effusive endorsement, even after it was widely believed that Clinton would be the nominee, and refused to declare the race finished. It won’t be enough, but such a public demonstration of respect for Sanders and his supporters was designed to help soothe hard feelings.
For his part, Sanders seemed unmoved by the primary math—even now.
He has vowed to take the fight to the Philadelphia and “fight for every vote and every delegate.” While there is less talk about flipping super delegates, he plans to rally supporters ahead of the D.C. primary next week and continue collecting as many votes and pledged delegates as possible.
No, Sanders did not surrender. The delegate stockpiling strategy is designed to maximize leverage going into the summer convention. Early negotiations have already netted high profile slots on the platform committee and this is key is your goal is to re-shape the party, writ large.
There is no next time around for Sanders. His name won’t be on the presidential primary ballot in 2020. Whatever shot he has, Sanders has to take it now. That’s why he talks broadly about “movements” rather than the particulars of legislating change. Today’s meeting with the president won’t change that.
However, many believe that despite today’s endorsement, no matter what Clinton does now, and no matter how tightly Sanders might one day cling to the former secretary of state, a small coalition of his support may decide to stay home, skip the race on the ballot, or vote for Trump. It must be said that some of the most ardent #BernieOrBust supporters are still counting on a federal indictment to topple Clinton.
But, despite that, the train will roll on. Obama, who appears eager to get out on the campaign trail, changes the equation for the braggadocious businessman from New York.
“I’m with her, I am fired up, and I cannot wait to get out there to campaign for Hillary,” Obama said today.
But more than that, today’s announcement signals an unleashing of surrogates across the country—elected and appointed Democrats who respectfully remained on the sidelines while the primary played itself out. Many, including the president and Sen. Warren, were said to be warming the bench but willing to jump in if Clinton ever got into any real trouble. That bench is empty now and that means a ready-made, key turn operation at the state level that will easily and eagerly integrate with the Clinton campaign.
That means money will flow and volunteers will walk door-to-door and put in hours of phone bank time in the name of keeping Trump out of the White House.
Hillary Clinton knows it takes a village to raise a child. And she’s about to use one to take on Trump.