President Barack Obama privately told a group of Democratic donors in Austin last week that Bernie Sanders’ bid for the White House was all but done, and that it was time to unite behind Hillary Clinton for the party’s nomination, the New York Times reported on Thursday.
The remarks, which were confirmed by the White House, even included a defense of Clinton’s character and addressed criticism that she isn’t authentic, particularly when compared with the Vermont senator. From the Times:
But he played down the importance of authenticity, noting that President George W. Bush—whose record he ran aggressively against in 2008—was once praised for his authenticity.
Obama’s quiet exhortations came just days before Sanders’ disappointing performance in the March 15 primaries. They also preview how the president may be preparing to play an active role in the 2016 election.
Obama and his advisers have reportedly been strategizing for weeks about how to ensure a Democrat defeats Donald Trump, should the real estate magnate secure the Republican nomination. According to the Washington Post, they’ve been specifically returning to the president’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns for potential tactics.
When asked in January if Sanders’ campaign reminded him of his own 2008 bid, Obama quickly rejected the comparison.
“I don’t think that’s true,” he said in an interview with Politico, a response many perceived as a subtle jab at Sanders. His most recent discussion with donors reveals, however, that the president may be ready to abandon such restraint.