Obama advises 2020 Democrats on campaigning against President Trump

February 19, 2019

Obama advises 2020 Democrats on campaigning against President Trump Image Source: Screenshot

Former President Barack Obama isn’t going to stand by passively and watch his successor win another term — he wants to make sure the Democratic presidential candidate has what it takes to defeat President Donald Trump in 2020. After all, it’s his own presidential legacy that’s at stake. 

The New York Times reported on Monday that Obama has quietly met with “more than a dozen declared or likely candidates on what he believes it will take to beat President Trump.”

No endorsement yet

So far, Obama has been reluctant to throw his weight behind a single Democratic candidate, choosing instead to play the field and consult with underdogs and frontrunners alike. “They asked me about Obama endorsing,” said David Axelrod, former chief strategist for the Obama administration, after donors who were “auditioning” the various Democratic candidates wondered if Obama had a preference. “I said, ‘I don’t imagine he will.’”

Privately, Obama has told people close to him that he prefers to let the Democratic primaries unfold naturally before throwing his impressive political weight behind a single candidate. Even former Vice President Joe Biden, an early favorite according to several polls, doesn’t expect to receive an endorsement before the primaries from his old running mate.

Casting a wide net

The fact is, Obama doesn’t seem to care who carries the progressive torch into 2020, as long as they can defeat Donald Trump and restore his crumbling political legacy. The former president has met privately with a variety of candidates, including political unknowns like South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, undeclared contenders like former attorney general Eric Holder and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and big-name candidates like Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Eric Schultz, a senior Obama adviser, said that a “diverse, experienced and principled” group of Democrats are actively seeking his boss’s approval and that Obama is “happy to speak privately with candidates seeking his guidance on the best way to lead the country.”

According to the Times, Obama told these presidential prospects that they must be willing to oppose President Donald Trump’s “bleak and divisive rhetoric about economic change” and craft policies that resonate with voters in Republican strongholds.

Obama may have been referring to Trump’s 2019 State of the Union address, when the Republican president warned of creeping socialism throughout the Democratic Party. “America was founded on liberty and independence, and not government coercion, domination and control,” Trump declared.

To hear Schultz tell it, Obama isn’t just interested in helping candidates who support his own agenda. Rather, “President Obama counsels candidates to always show up and make their case even in areas or in front of audiences they may not necessarily win; express views and positions that reflect their genuine beliefs; and share a positive vision for the country true to their own personal story,” he said.

Gaming the Democratic field

Yet, it’s hard to believe that Obama, a skilled community organizer, is taking a completely hands-off approach and is consulting with over a dozen presidential contenders merely to improve their electoral chances. Why else would the Chicago Democrat establish a command-and-control bunker less than two miles from the White House, where he can oversee an army of over 30,000 political agitators?

Everything that has been published or recorded about Obama following Trump’s 2016 victory — which he tells his political protégés he did not expect — suggests that he is gaming the Democratic field for personal reasons. “It is fine for everybody to feel stressed, sad, discouraged,” he told supporters in a conference call before exiting the White House. “But get over it.”

Obama demanded they “move forward to protect what we’ve accomplished. Now is the time for some organizing,” he said. “So don’t mope.”

Benefiting from his robust 2012 campaign database, the former president powered-up a network of nonprofits in the aftermath of Trump’s victory to not only preserve his legacy, but to sabotage Trump’s “America First” agenda. Obama’s Organizing for Action social justice outfit has since led anti-Trump marches and protested the Republican administration’s national security and immigration policies.

Despite these overt efforts, some of which have resulted in riots, the Times characterized Obama’s political consulting as “discreet” and noted his “longstanding ambivalence about acting as a partisan political leader.” But Obama has hardly been operating from behind-the-scenes since he left the White House, and his presence during the 2018 midterm campaigns has been described as “unusual” and “a departure from a historical norm in which former presidents tend to avoid openly criticizing their successors.”

From the crippling of Obamacare to the undermining of the Iran nuclear agreement and Paris Climate Agreement, the 44th president has seen his socialist vision for America deconstructed, one deregulatory reform at a time. If Obama doesn’t find a Democratic flag-bearer who can defeat Trump, he can kiss his socialist legacy goodbye.

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Benjamin Baird

Benjamin Baird is a senior staff writer for the Conservative Institute. He is a veteran infantryman of Iraq and Afghanistan with over 1000 days in combat and holds a degree in Middle Eastern studies from the American Military University. Ben is a regular contributor at the Middle East Forum and has written for dozens of conservative publications, including The Daily Caller, American Spectator, American Thinker, New English Review and Jewish News Syndicate.