President Barack Obama has signaled he intends to broker a campaign cease-fire between Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
On June 8, Obama appeared on “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon to discuss the state of the presidential race. He praised Sanders for waging a progressive campaign that he believes has had a lasting and improving effect on the Democratic party.
“I thought that Bernie Sanders brought enormous energy and new ideas,” Obama said, reports The Hill. “And he pushed the party and challenged them. I thought it made Hillary a better candidate.”
The president was also complimentary of his former secretary of state, although he has yet to officially endorse her.
“I think she is whip smart,” Obama said of Clinton. “She is tough. And she deeply cares about working people and putting kids through school and making sure we’re growing our economy.”
Fallon pointed out that the Democratic primary had become contentious. Sanders has appeared to have no intention of dropping out of the race yet, despite Clinton’s victories in New Jersey and California on June 7.
Obama countered that the 2008 primary race he had against Clinton had also been tense and at times verbally nasty.
“My hope is, is that over the next couple of weeks, we’re able to pull things together,” the president said. “And what happens during primaries, you get a little ouchy. Everybody does.”
The president and Sanders planned to hold a private meeting at the White House on June 9. Aides told CNN the president intends to convince Sanders to reconcile with the Clinton campaign and officially recognize her as the party nominee.
President Obama is not expected to flatly ask Sanders to drop out. Vice President Joe Biden is planning to also speak with Sanders but on a separate occasion. Neither Obama or Biden will make official endorsements in the race until they speak with the Vermont senator first.
Several of Sanders’ surrogates and supporters have voiced irritation with Obama’s posture in the race, warning they will politically retaliate if the president forces Sanders out of the race.
“The president is not Sen. Sanders’ boss,” former Democratic State Sen. Nina Turner of Ohio told Politico. “We’ve got to get this straight here. There’s respect that’s for the commander in chief ... but Sen. Sanders is duly elected, and he’ll make his own decisions.”
An anonymous Democratic strategist who has supported Sanders stated that Obama will have to negotiate the peace carefully or he could have his popularity impacted by the Vermont senators’ supporters.
“They don’t want to see him shoved to the side,” the strategist said of Sanders. “A lot of love is going to be more productive than a lot of pressure ... The better course is to show appreciation and engagement and show how much the party needs this guy.”