Barack Obama told Joe Biden he won’t endorse him yet, report claims

Resurrected candidate says he’ll have to ‘earn’ former president’s backing

Andrew Naughtie
Monday 02 March 2020 14:41
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Biden on lack of Obama endorsement: 'I have to earn this on my own'

Despite Joe Biden’s commanding victory in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, in which he garnered close to 50 per cent of the vote, an endorsement from the president with whom he served seems not to be forthcoming.

Speaking to CNN, a source close to Barack Obama said that in a congratulatory phonecall after Mr Biden’s victory, the president told Mr Biden he would not be endorsing him any time soon, citing worries that he could badly divide the party during a still-messy nominating process.

Explaining the president’s thinking, the source said that for now, the risks outweigh the rewards: “We are sceptical that an endorsement coming from us could truly change the political winds right now.

“Weighing in now likely only divides things worse and weakens his standing for when the party will need it most.”

Mr Biden routinely invokes the legacy of the Obama administration as part of his campaign pitch, including in TV ads that make clear how highly the former president thinks of him. However, he has also made clear he does not feel entitled to a blessing, saying “I have to earn this on my own”.

However, Mr Biden did speak up to demand TV stations pull a misleading ad that used his words out of context to imply he himself was attacking Mr Biden.

Mr Biden has also accused his rival Bernie Sanders of undermining the former president, including plotting to run against him as he stood for re-election in 2012. Mr Sanders denies he ever planned to do such a thing.

Since his South Carolina triumph, Mr Biden has quickly returned to his onetime position as Mr Sanders’s principal challenger, and he is polling well in many of the states due to vote on Super Tuesday.

That has added to the pressure on other candidates to drop out and allow Mr Biden to consolidate the “anti-Sanders” vote.

Pete Buttigieg, who tied with Sanders in Iowa and ran a close second in Iowa but afterwards performed poorly, dropped out after South Carolina. That leaves Mr Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bloomberg as Sanders’s “moderate” rivals.

Mr Biden ran in the same Democratic primary as Mr Obama in 2008, but won only a small number of votes and dropped out after the Iowa caucuses.

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