The race for the Democratic nomination to be president got much thinner over the weekend when two candidates dropped out after Joe Biden won the South Carolina primary on Saturday. It was finally a chance for Black voters to make their electoral voices heard loud and clear by a slate of White House hopefuls who are dependent on the coveted voting bloc to push them to victory on Election Day.
But without the elusive endorsement of Barack Obama, the last Democratic president whose words carry significant weight in his party, it was unclear which candidate would be able to break out and beyond the rest of the pack.
Bernie Sanders won two of the first four primary contests, busting out to an impressive lead among delegates. And Biden’s win in South Carolina along with the departures of Pete Buttigieg, who won the Iowa Caucuses, and billionaire Tom Steyer, left the only other candidates in the race — Mike Bloomberg, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren — as increasingly outside chances for securing the nomination.
All of which means that there is all but guaranteed to be additional candidates suspending their campaign after this upcoming Super Tuesday, during which there are primaries and caucuses being held in 14 states and one U.S territory. Those results will probably thin out the race even more — perhaps dwindling it down to being between just Biden and Sanders — to the point that Obama may be compelled to step in and offer up his endorsement much earlier than he did for the crucial 2016 race that Democrats lost to Donald Trump.
Obama endorsed Hillary Clinton in June of 2016, but chances are that he won’t be able to wait as long to throw his support behind a candidate this time around. The Democratic Party has been reeling from a number of recent losses, including the efforts to impeach Trump. Now, as candidates continue to attack each other — thus beefing up Trump’s arsenal of ammunition expected to be unleashed during the presidential debates — it might be prudent to try to unite Democrats sooner rather than later. And there may be no better way to do that than for the most popular president in the modern era to openly and officially throw his support behind a candidate who Obama says he believes can beat Trump.
With that said, Democrats better not get their hopes up to hear about who Obama is endorsing anytime soon.
Obama reportedly called up Biden to congratulate him for winning the South Carolina primary. But he stopped short of an endorsement for Biden — or anyone else — out of fear that doing so right now could be a bit premature, an unidentified source told CNN.
“We are skeptical that an endorsement coming from us could truly change the political winds right now,” the source said before cautioning that offering support so early in the primary process increases “a very real chance it backfires.”
The source did suggest Obama might increase his visibility, but an endorsement will probably have to wait.
“So he’s prepared to play a vigorous role in coalescing the party around the nominee and working to defeat Trump, but weighing in now likely only divides things worse and weakens his standing for when the Party will need it most,” CNN quoted the source as adding.
The New York Times reported on Friday that Obama might be iffy on supporting Sanders, a candidate who has been accused of not rallying his supporters around Clinton’s nomination in 2016. However, regardless of candidates attacking each other, Obama was expected to let the political cards fall before he offers a full-throated endorsement.
“Mr. Obama hasn’t tried to referee how the current candidates are using his name, image or record, and he has studiously avoided playing favorites,” the Times wrote. “He does have opinions about the race, several of his allies say, but has made it clear that he sees his main role as unifying the party after a nominee is selected and helping ease tensions among warring supporters.”
Obama may have offered a hint at who he was planning to endorse while speaking at the Singapore Expo in December. At the time, he said he thought that a woman would make a better president than… well, just about anybody else.
If that wasn’t clear enough, Obama had some more to say on the topic in no uncertain terms.
“If you look at the world and look at the problems, it’s usually old people, usually old men, not getting out of the way,” Obama added. “It is important for political leaders to try and remind themselves that you are there to do a job, but you are not there for life, you are not there in order to prop up your own sense of self-importance or your own power.”
The words “old people” and “old men” coupled with the phrase “You are not there for life” got some people wondering who Obama could ever be talking about. Was he referring to Warren and her progressive values that seem to fall right in line with the policies championed by Obama when he was president? It should be noted that more than 230 former Obama campaign alumni have come out in support of Warren.
Obviously, Obama’s name carries major weight. USA Today reported in November that a survey it conducted “asked likely Democratic voters whom among the party’s past presidential nominees would have the most influence on their vote today. Two-thirds named former president Obama, who moved out of the White House almost three years ago.”
It would be seen as a devastating failure for Biden if Obama did not endorse his candidacy. But we may never truly know how Obama feels about this slate of Democratic candidates since it’s expected that he will fall in line with his party and rally behind whoever becomes the nominee.
With 34 percent of the pledged delegates at stake on Super Tuesday, the following states and U.S. territory are scheduled to hold primaries or caucuses this week: Alabama, American Samoa, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia.