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Obama to meet with Sanders to nudge him to fully back Clinton

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a rally Tuesday in Santa Monica, Calif.

President Barack Obama will use an Oval Office meeting with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Thursday morning to delicately nudge the losing Democratic presidential hopeful toward a full embrace of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and a unified party effort to defeat Donald Trump in the fall, according to administration aides.

The conversation, the fifth that Obama will have had with Sanders since the primaries began, is to be part of a choreographed series of moves Obama set in motion this week that are designed to quickly bridge the divide between the two Democratic presidential candidates laid bare in the last few months. The strategy will culminate with the president’s formal endorsement of Clinton in the coming days, followed by an appearance with her on the campaign trail soon after.

Obama’s message is intended to be unmistakable: The time has come for Sanders to harness his formidable constituency in support of his onetime rival even as he continues to press for the progressive policies that animated his base. But it is also clear to the White House that Obama must broker this particular intraparty peace treaty with patience and respect, or risk angering Sanders and his millions of supporters.

To that end, the president will delay any endorsement of Clinton until after the meeting with Sanders. And a joint appearance is unlikely until after the Democratic primary in the District of Columbia on Tuesday. Obama will not pressure Sanders to make a concession before that contest, the final one in the long primary season, advisers said.

“We should be a little graceful and give him the opportunity to decide on his own,” when he wants to leave the race, Vice President Joe Biden said of Sanders on Wednesday.

White House aides said Obama was eager to help Sanders find a way to continue elevating the causes he championed for more than a year — including addressing income inequality and college tuition affordability, raising the minimum wage and changing campaign finance rules — but without the anti-Clinton comments that could threaten the Democratic cause.

“You’ve built this enormous grass-roots movement; what do you want to do with that?” said Jen Psaki, Obama’s communications director, describing what was likely to be the tenor of his conversation with Sanders. “There’s a recognition of the energy and enthusiasm that he built, and that that is going to be needed to win in November.”

Finding a way to help guide Sanders past his disappointment is the president’s chief goal during the next few days, Obama aides said. During a remarkable and at times bruising political campaign, Sanders has built an enormous list of Democratic voters that would be invaluable to Clinton and to Democratic Senate and House candidates. Aides said Obama would remind Sanders that he could receive much of the credit for big Democratic wins if he helps redirect his newfound political energy toward helping Clinton.

Democratic strategists said the president would play a pivotal role in reaching out to Sanders’ coalition, although Clinton will have to make a visible effort to appeal to her former adversary’s supporters — much as Obama did in 2008 after he won a prolonged and at times bitter primary with Clinton.

“He’ll be a great surrogate among those Democrats who were supportive of him but are less supportive of her, particularly younger Democrats, in making the case as to why consolidating behind her is important and what’s at stake in the election,” said David Axelrod, a former senior adviser in Obama’s presidential campaign and his White House.

Clinton “needs to approach those folks with open arms, but there is a truth-telling, reality element of this that he may be better suited for,” Axelrod added.

Some supporters of Sanders on Wednesday said that they hoped that Obama would not pressure their candidate to quickly leave the race.

“Bernie Sanders and the grass-roots political revolutionaries behind him have more than earned the time and the space, just as Secretary Clinton and her supporters did eight years ago, to determine the best steps we can take together to help unite our party against Donald Trump in the days and weeks ahead,” said Jim Dean, the chairman of Democracy for America, which endorsed Sanders in December.

Adam Green, a founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which stayed neutral in the race, said Democrats should not “guilt trip” Sanders voters by warning them of the risks of electing Trump, but instead incorporate their ideas, including expanding Social Security benefits and breaking up big banks, into the party platform.

In a taped appearance on “The Tonight Show” that is to be broadcast Thursday night, Obama praised Sanders, saying he brought “enormous energy” and “new ideas” to the campaign. The president said Sanders pushed his rival, making her a better candidate.

“She is whip smart, she is tough and she deeply cares about working people and putting kids through school,” Obama said, citing some of Sanders’ main concerns about Clinton. “My hope is over the next couple weeks, we’re able to pull things together.”

The president said Sanders and his supporters deserved some time to become used to the fact that he did not win. He said that people who poured their hearts into campaigns often became “a little ouchy” and bruised, and needed time to recover.

Asked whether he thinks the Republicans are happy with their choice of Trump, Obama joked, “We are!” He then added, “Actually, you know what, that was too easy,” and said he was worried about the Republican Party because democracy works when “you have two parties that are serious.”

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  • I believe Sanders will withhold his support for Hillary until after the FBI completes its investigation into her use of an unsecured private email server to conduct sensitive and classified US government business. If the FBI finds that Hillary violated federal laws and recommends charges against her, she most likely will have to drop out of the race leaving Sanders as the sole Democrat contender.

    • Yes, I agree. There is more to this than the FBI is letting on. Much more. O’bama knows what’s going on. He’s got to know. Cover up, you bet. He’s got to be complicit.

    • sanders should remain in the race through the Democrat convention. if the f.b.i. completes its criminal investigation into hiliar’s felony violations and secures indictments against hiliar, the democrats will need a plan b candidate.

    • You really think Obama will allow the FBI to derail Clinton? The investigation will not be concluded before the election. If the FBI was going to clear her, they would have done it by now. It’s hard, if not impossible to prosecute a sitting president.

  • Sanders would be a good running mate for Clinton, probably the only way she gets all his supporters. Many of the young people and independents that support Sanders won’t support Clinton.

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