Former President Barack Obama’s financial backers earlier this month secretly interviewed numerous 2020 presidential candidates to determine which one or two of them they should support monetarily, The New York Times reported on Monday.
Obama’s former chief strategist David Axelrod confirmed that he briefed the group, but not as an official Obama emissary. He said he did not think the former president would endorse anyone, even if his Vice President Joe Biden entered the race, and that Obama did not believe it was up to him to determine the 2020 nomination, preferring instead that the primaries serve as a contest of ideas.
But Obama has advised more than a dozen declared or likely candidates on what he thinks is needed to beat President Donald Trump.
According to sources briefed on these informal discussions, Obama has encouraged candidates to push back on Trump’s bleak and divisive rhetoric about economic change and stress an alternative message that also can attract rural voters and others that are likely to distrust Democrats.
He also has urged candidates to avoid attacking each other in bitterly personal terms during the primaries that could later help Trump in the general election.
Obama has, however, spoken admiringly about a few potential presidential candidates, encouraged about the rise of a newer generation of leaders in the party.
He also campaigned for the midterms, focusing many of his endorsements on promoting women and candidates of color. Obama also has taken a leading role in the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a group established to battle against congressional gerrymandering.
Some Democrats hold out hope that Obama might eventually help resolve the primary, perhaps if the race narrows to just two candidates and the former president is convinced one of them cannot defeat Trump.
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