Obama remains neutral in Democratic presidential race

Bernie Sanders meets President.

President Barack Obama would stay “even-handed” in the Democratic nomination process according to Senator Bernie Sanders who has mounted a tough challenge to frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Mr. Sanders who met Mr. Obama on Wednesday said neither did he seek the President’s endorsement for his candidacy nor did the President offer it, though both discussed politics.

“I think he and the Vice-President have tried to be fair and even-handed in the process, and I expect they will continue to do that,” Mr. Sanders said after the meeting, which took place two days after some comments by Mr. Obama were widely interpreted as his preference for Ms. Clinton.

It was Mr. Obama’s comments to Politico that prompted the chatter that he supports Ms. Clinton, but a closer and complete reading of the interview shows the President keen to maintain his neutrality while appreciating the qualities of both Ms. Clinton and Mr. Sanders. His answer to the concluding question — “How personally gratifying for you would it be to have the first female President succeed the first African-American President?” — was instructive.

“Well, my No. 1 priority is having a Democratic President succeed me, and I think there’s no doubt that, given our history, I want more women in politics generally, and I want my daughters to feel that there’s nothing that they can’t do. I don’t think that Democrats are going to vote for Hillary just because she’s a woman any more than they’re going to vote for Bernie just because they agree with him on one particular issue. I think, you know, voters are pretty sophisticated. They’re going to take all these things into account. I am proud of the fact that the Democratic Party represents today the breaking down of all sorts of barriers and a belief that you judge people on what they bring to the table and not what they look like or who they love or their last name…” Mr. Obama had said.

Mr. Obama’s comments also became a talking point in the Democratic debate on Monday. Mr. Sanders who had policy disagreements with the President on several occasions, said after both met on Wednesday: “There’s no secret that we have, as is the case in a democratic society, we have differences of opinion… I was on the floor of the Senate disagreeing with him over taxes. We disagree over the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. By and large, over the last seven years on major issue after major issue, I have stood by his side to where he has taken on unprecedented Republican obstructionism, has tried to do the right thing for the American people.”

White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said Mr. Sanders and Mr. Obama discussed the campaign too, which was an occasion for the President to “reminisce a little bit about his own experience campaigning for president — both in terms of drawing big crowds, but also spending some time talking to people in more out-of-the-way places.”

Mr. Sanders he was not hoping to draw as big a support as Mr. Obama did in 2008 in Iowa, the first primary State, next week. Conceding that his popularity is not as huge as Mr. Obama’s in 2008, Mr. Sanders said, he, however, hoped to win Iowa next week.