Obama Endorses Clinton; Sanders Continues Campaign

Obama Endorses Clinton; Sanders Continues Campaign
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President Obama formally endorsed Hillary Clinton in a video released Thursday, hours after a meeting with Clinton’s opponent, who said he is taking his presidential bid to the end of the primary calendar next Tuesday.

Obama plans to campaign with Clinton in Wisconsin Wednesday, following the former secretary of state’s launch of the general election battle in Ohio Monday and in Pennsylvania Tuesday. Clinton’s team announced her joint appearance with the president in Green Bay “to discuss building on progress we’ve made” and “vision for America.”

The apparently pre-taped endorsement emerged shortly after Bernie Sanders met with the president at the White House and showed no immediate signs of suspending his campaign or endorsing the presumptive nominee this week. But Sanders hinted at an eventual coming-together of the two foes in a joint bid to defeat the GOP ticket.

In the video posted on YouTube, Obama describes Clinton as the candidate best prepared to lead the country. “I’m with her. I am fired up and I cannot wait to get out there to campaign for Hillary,” the president said.

Obama commended Sanders for his “incredible campaign.” Suggesting the endorsement video had been on the shelf for some time, Obama tells listeners that “I had a great meeting with him this week” -- less than two hours after that meeting concluded.

But Obama’s spokesman said the video was taped Tuesday.

At their meeting, Obama and the senator discussed "what work they could potentially do in the future," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, noting the two spoke three times in the last week. "They're hopeful they'll be able to work together in the future."

Earnest said the president's backing for Clinton was not a surprise to Sanders, considering Clinton's delegate and vote totals in the primaries and caucuses.

With wife Jane by his side, Sanders exited the West Wing holding a three-page, typed statement, which he read to cameras, reiterating themes familiar from his stump speeches. Sanders said he would compete in the final Democratic primary in Washington, D.C., June 14, and then work with Clinton in an effort to defeat Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump.

“I look forward to meeting with [Clinton] in the near future to see how we can work together to defeat Donald Trump and to create a government that represents all of us and not just the 1 percent,” he said.

“In my view, the American people will not vote for or tolerate a candidate who insults Mexicans and Latinos, who insults Muslims, who insults African-Americans and women,” he said. “Needless to say, I’m going to do everything in my power, and I will work as hard as I can to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president of the United States.”

(Trump himself was quick to respond to Obama’s endorsement, tweeting: “Obama just endorsed Crooked Hillary. He wants four more years of Obama—but nobody else does!” In her own rapid response, Clinton tweeted back to Trump, “Delete your account.”)

Asked by RealClearPolitics if he endorsed Clinton, the Vermont senator declined to answer as he re-entered the White House after a visit that included a jovial walk with Obama along the colonnade for news cameras, and an hour-long conversation with the president prior to an afternoon meeting with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid in the Capitol. Reid told reporters afterward that Sanders “needs a little time to decide what he wants to do” but added, “Bernie’s going to be good for the party. … I’m confident he will be a good campaigner for Democratic senators and the Democratic nominee.”

Sanders also met privately with Vice President Joe Biden, and still planned to hold a campaign rally in D.C. Thursday evening.

Eager to tally his presidential bid to the decimal point for history (and for political leverage), Sanders said he wants a “full counting” of Tuesday’s California primary result, which he predicted would show a more competitive result than the nearly 13-point victory credited to Clinton. Sanders had invested weeks of campaigning in the Golden State before coming in a distant second Tuesday. He won contests in North Dakota and Montana, but lost in New Mexico, New Jersey and South Dakota.

After ticking through his stump speech highlights, including his oft-stated aim to shrink the economic chasm between the wealthiest in America and everyone else, the democratic socialist said his campaign attracted “millions” of supporters during a hard-fought bid to become the nominee.

“These are the issues that we will take to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia at the end of July,” he said, underscoring the political leverage he hopes to wield with Clinton and other party leaders.

Sanders is likely to get a prominent speaking slot in Philadelphia, when the party expects to crown Clinton as the first woman to be nominated for president from a major political party. And he wants the Democratic Party platform and its rules to reflect his views.

Obama, who last met with Sanders at the White House in January, has been eager to get the general election underway and to see Democrats united behind a plan to stop Trump and help down-ballot Democrats in November.

But for the time being, the party’s public stance is to shower Sanders, 74, with patience and platitudes as he ends efforts that cannot mathematically deliver the delegates needed to win. Finishing Tuesday’s contests with a majority of pledged delegates and over 3 million more votes than Sanders attracted, Clinton celebrated her historic achievement as the first woman in U.S. political history to face off against a male nominee for president.

Clinton commended Sanders and his supporters during her victory speech Tuesday in Brooklyn, N.Y., hoping they will come into the fold with either support for her or antipathy for Trump.

Obama called Clinton “whip smart” and “tough” during an NBC “Tonight Show” interview taped Wednesday.

“It was a healthy thing for the Democratic Party to have a contested primary,” he said. “I thought that Bernie Sanders brought enormous energy and new ideas. And he pushed the party and challenged them. I thought it made Hillary a better candidate.”

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com.  Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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