Obama Privately Warned He Would Speak Out Against Nominating Sanders

Former US president Barack Obama / Getty Images
November 26, 2019

Former president Barack Obama privately remarked earlier this year that he would speak up to stop Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) if Sanders were to take a commanding lead in the Democratic primary.

Obama has publicly vowed that he would not interfere in the Democratic primary, but was concerned earlier this year about Sanders running away with the nomination, and would "speak up to stop him" if the Vermont senator proved threatening, Politico reported.

Reporter Ryan Lizza spoke with multiple Obama advisers about whether the former president would speak out against Sanders.

"I can't really confirm that," one close adviser said. "He hasn't said that directly to me. The only reason I'm hesitating at all is because, yeah, if Bernie were running away with it, I think maybe we would all have to say something. But I don't think that's likely. It's not happening."

Another close friend of Obama said, "Bernie's not a Democrat."

Obama expressed concerns about some of the Democratic presidential candidates earlier this month at the annual meeting of the Democracy Alliance, a club of wealthy liberals who give hundreds of thousands of dollars to progressive organizations every year. While the former president did not single out any of the candidates by name, he appeared to target Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.).

"Even as we push the envelope and we are bold in our vision, we also have to be rooted in reality," Obama said. "The average American doesn't think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it."

Sanders has received criticism from several Democratic presidential candidates, including former vice president Joe Biden. Biden criticized Sanders's Medicare for All proposal for being too costly and eliminating private insurance. Sanders admitted in July that his Medicare for All plan would cost up to $40 trillion over 10 years, and also previously said he would raise taxes on the middle class to help pay for it.

Earlier this year, Sanders said he opposed a bill that would strengthen Obamacare, prompting MSNBC's Chris Hayes to note the Vermont senator apparently stopped finding incremental reforms acceptable.