According to CNN, the ad is scheduled to air in several upcoming primary states and it features audio and video of Obama from several settings. Each sound bite expresses kind words about Senator Sanders. This marks the first time Sanders and his team have made a notable effort to embrace Obama despite running an anti-establishment campaign. Meanwhile, Sanders’ main competitor in the presidential race, former Vice President Joe Biden, has consistently associated himself with Obama as one way to appeal to voters.
“Bernie is somebody who has the virtue of saying exactly what he believes,” Obama says in Sanders’ ad. “Great authenticity, great passion, and is fearless.”
The soundbites from the ad are pulled from three different occasions when Obama has spoken about Sanders. One clip was from an interview with Politico in 2016 and another from a speech Obama made in Vermont in 2006 to support Sanders’ campaign for the US Senate. The last clip that acted as a source for Sanders’ ad was from Obama’s 2016 convention speech where he wasn’t necessarily praising Sanders, but he encouraged Sanders’ supporters to fully get behind Hillary Clinton.
“I think people are ready for a call to action,” says Obama’s voice in the ad. “They want honest leadership who cares about them. They want somebody who’s going to fight for them, and they will find it in Bernie. That’s right, feel the Bern.”
Despite Obama’s past praises of Sanders, some people on social media were outraged by the clip, calling it “disingenuous.”
In reality, Sanders and Obama have had more of a complicated relationship.
According to The Atlantic, during Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012, multiple sources reported that Sanders considered running against him in the primaries before ultimately supporting Obama’s reelection. Sanders’ deputy campaign director Ari Rabin-Havt denied these reports, telling CNN, “This never happened. Bernie Sanders never considered a primary challenge to Obama. Bernie was running for reelection in 2012 and that’s what he was focused on.”
However, this doesn’t take away from the fact that Sanders has disagreed with Obama immensely on political stances or actions. For example, back in 2017 he called the former president’s speech at a Wall Street-sponsored event “distasteful,” according to Time. This was an event where Obama accepted $400,000 to speak. Sanders explained, “I think at a time when people are so frustrated with the power of Wall Street and the big-money interests, I think it is unfortunate that President Obama is doing this.”
Biden’s campaign team also spoke out after Sanders released his Obama ad.
“Barack Obama chose Vice President Biden to be his partner over eight years in the White House, entrusting him with managing the stimulus that saved our economy from a depression, obtaining the deciding vote for the Affordable Care Act, and countless national security priorities,” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates explained. “By contrast, Senator Sanders explored a primary challenge to President Obama, who he compared to a ‘moderate Republican’ and said was not a ‘progressive.’ As recent history has proven, no quantity of ads can rewrite history — and there’s no substitute for genuinely having the back of the best president of our lifetimes.”
Granted, Obama once called himself a “moderate Republican” or at least, he said that’s what he would have been 25 years ago in a Univision interview. “The truth of the matter is, is that my policies are so mainstream that if I’d said the same policies that I had back in the 1980s, I’d be considered a moderate Republican,” Obama said in the interview. “What I believe in is a tax system that’s fair. I don’t think government can solve every problem. I think that we should make sure that we’re helping young people go to school. We should make sure that our government is building good roads and bridges, and hospitals and airports so that we have a good infrastructure. I do believe that it makes sense that everybody in America, as rich as this country is, shouldn’t go bankrupt because they get sick.”
Sanders’ team has yet to respond to Biden’s campaign statement. His Obama ad could be one final strategic move to garner support from Obama voters. While Sanders’ foundational base is pretty strong, pulling support away from Biden via Obama supporters could be the the final pull he needs to get ahead in the primaries, considering the results have been so close between him and Biden in certain states.
However, pandering to voters could also backfire disastrously. As the primary elections continue, only time will tell.