early and often

Obama Urges Democrats to Rally Around Clinton, Sanders Says Not So Fast

Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton Holds Primary Night Event In Florida
Clinton celebrated her victory in Florida on Tuesday night. Photo: Justin Sullivan/2016 Getty Images

Tuesday was a good day for Hillary Clinton. The former secretary of State won Democratic primaries in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois, and (eventually) Missouri in a sweep she called “another Super Tuesday.” Her series of victories added significantly to her overall delegate count, putting her even further ahead of Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic nomination (she now has 1,606 delegates to Sanders’s 851). Despite Sanders’s surprise victory in Michigan earlier this month, Clinton’s winning streak has persuaded many Democrats, whether or not they support her, that she’ll beat out Sanders for the nomination. In private remarks to donors, President Obama urged his fellow party members to unite behind Clinton, and her campaign, convinced Donald Trump will be the GOP nominee, is already hard at work plotting his downfall.

The president’s remarks came even before Clinton’s string of victories on Tuesday, the New York Times reports. Speaking at a fundraising event in Austin, Texas, last Friday, President Obama told a group of Democratic donors that Senator Sanders’s campaign was nearing an end and that they must prepare to unite behind Clinton. Although he was reportedly careful to keep from criticizing Sanders, who’s beloved for his authenticity, Obama pointed out that an “authentic” candidate doesn’t necessarily make a good president (he named George W. Bush as an example). He described Clinton as “smart, tough, and experienced,” and promised she’d continue his administration’s work.

Over the past few days, the president has also stepped up his criticism of Trump’s rhetoric, most recently at a St. Patrick’s Day luncheon at the Capitol on Tuesday. “The longer that we allow the political rhetoric of late to continue, and the longer that we tacitly accept it, we create a permission structure that allows the animosity in one corner of our politics to infect our broader society,” he said. “And animosity breeds animosity.” His advisers told the Washington Post that they expect the nominee to be Clinton, and that the president will campaign heavily on her behalf.

Meanwhile Clinton’s campaign is already preparing a strategy to defeat Trump in the general election. A Clinton aide told The Wall Street Journal that her team has closely monitored how Trump’s Republican rivals have tried — and failed — to make a dent in his ascent. She’s reportedly planning to attack Trump “on substance” and stay out of the “war of insults,” trusting in Trump’s “heated rhetoric” to repel voters. Although it’s natural for Clinton’s own campaign to prepare for her victory in the Democratic race, Sanders has yet to announce such a specific strategy to oust his potential Republican rival.

But the Vermont senator contends he’s just as likely as Clinton to win the nomination — on Thursday he called the suggestion he drop out of the race “absurd.” “The bottom line is that only half of the American people have participated in the political process,” he said, referring to primaries still to be held in 24 states and Washington, D.C.“To suggest we don’t fight this out until the end would be, I think, a very bad mistake.” In an interview with the Associated Press, Sanders predicted wins in states like Arizona, Washington, New York, and Pennsylvania would give him a chance to catch up to Clinton’s delegate count.

Sanders is technically right, and his campaign has certainly generated more “excitement” (as the president put it) than Clinton’s. But her widening delegate lead, coupled with the president’s non-endorsement endorsement, have helped her regain significant momentum.

Obama Says It’s Time to Rally Around Clinton