Though the 2018 midterm elections are just barely behind us, America’s focus has already shifted to the 2020 election and the plethora of potential Democratic candidates who will battle for their party’s nomination.
By all accounts, the Democratic front-runner is former Vice President Joe Biden — but word is that Biden is upset that his friend and former boss Barack Obama has not embraced his candidacy, and is instead spending time meeting with other potential candidates.
Vanity Fair reported that Obama recently met with failed Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke — who is considering a 2020 presidential run — among other potential candidates in the past couple of months.
Those meetings were said to have Biden “less than thrilled” at the perceived slight, though a Biden spokesman Bill Russo countered those reports as “unequivocally false. Period.”
Obama not picking a “winner” yet
Obama reportedly still considers Biden to be a close friend, but the former president was said to be wary about embracing any particular candidate too early in the primary process, given what happened in 2016 when the field was essentially cleared of potential challengers — including Biden — by the party ahead of the preordained yet failed run by Hillary Clinton.
An unnamed former Obama adviser explained: “So his position this time is, ‘If you’re serious and you want to talk, I’ll talk to you.’ As things unfold, he might say, ‘Let’s all stay focused.’ But he’s not going to pick a winner.”
Another former Obama adviser, John Del Cecato, said: “I know President Obama has tremendous respect for Biden. But he also appreciates the dark-horse candidates or those who haven’t been as plugged in.”
A snub that may not matter in the end
But an unnamed top Democratic strategist suggested the distance from Obama could actually work out in Biden’s favor over time.
“If I were Biden, I wouldn’t want to be in a situation where Obama is saying, ‘Look, you’ve got to be for my VP,’” the strategist said. “Democrats don’t like to be told who to vote for.”
They added: “Many people lined up behind Sanders in 2016 because they didn’t want to be told to support Hillary. Biden doesn’t want to fall into that trap, to have Obama embrace him too exclusively, too early.”
Still, another unnamed adviser understood why Biden might be a little peeved at Obama’s “flirtations” with other candidates.
“If Obama is playing footsie with people now, it creates tension,” the adviser said. “And it gets you some media attention and maybe some staffing. But actual voters? Obama himself has always been popular with Democrats, but I’ve never seen his popularity be transferable to someone else.”
At the end of the day, Joe Biden is a 76-year-old white man who hails from the shrinking portion of the party that is more moderate and focused on working-class Americans than the more progressive left-leaning wing of the party that wants younger, non-white, non-male candidates to take the reins from older leaders.
While he might love to see his candidacy embraced by Obama, voters may have somebody else in mind regardless of whom the former president chooses to support.