Obama congratulates Biden on South Carolina victory, but holds off on endorsement

Former Vice President Joe Biden has frequently and repeatedly touted his connection to former President Barack Obama while on the 2020 campaign trail, likely in hopes of rebuilding Obama’s election-winning coalition of left-leaning voters. But while Biden may be capitalizing on the connection, it doesn’t seem Obama is 100% on board.

According to Bloomberg News, Obama called Biden over the weekend to personally congratulate him on his victory in South Carolina’s primary — but as has been the case throughout Biden’s candidacy, Obama stopped short of endorsing his former running mate outright.

Obama stops short

One unnamed source said to be “familiar” with the phone call told Bloomberg News that Obama rang Biden up to congratulate him on his decisive victory in the recent Democratic primary in South Carolina, where the former VP garnered about 48% of the vote. The candidate coming in second, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, got only about 20% of the vote.

Biden’s victory was likely fueled at least in part by a late endorsement from long-serving Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), who is viewed as an elder statesman among South Carolinians and, in particular, black voters — about 60% of whom cast a vote for Biden in the Palmetto State.

Obama, for his part, has opted not to endorse any of the Democratic candidates thus far, but he has said he will support whoever the party nominates this summer.

According to two unnamed sources who spoke with Bloomberg News and were said to be “familiar” with Obama’s “thinking” on the matter, it’s likely that trend will continue.

It was also suggested by the sources that there is skepticism within the Obama camp as to whether his endorsement would even have much of an impact on the primary race at this point — or, even worse, that it may spark a backlash among voters who could then turn against whichever candidate he had singled out.

Unfortunately for Obama, news of the congratulatory phone call for Biden could supersede those plans and be viewed as a strengthening of the bond between the former president and his former VP.

“I have to earn this”

In the meantime, the Washington Examiner reports that Biden is still peddling the narrative that he doesn’t need or even want Obama’s endorsement during the primary battle for the nomination.

Asked by host George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week if the lack of an endorsement from Obama is hurting his candidacy, Biden replied, “No, it isn’t hurting me, and I don’t think it’s time. He and I have talked about this in the very beginning. I have to earn this on my own.”

According to the Examiner, the former vice president later added:

The president and I are close friends, and I have no doubt when I win this nomination that he will be out there full bore for me.

Biden is probably right that Obama will back him “full bore” if he ends up being the party’s nominee to take on President Trump — but at least as of now, that remains a big “if.” And while he can claim all he wants that he doesn’t need or want Obama’s endorsement, everyone knows Biden would tout it if given the opportunity.

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