Report: Obama Privately Coaching 2020 Contenders

Former president Barack Obama speaks at a conference during his first visit to France since he left the White House, December 2, 2017. (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

President Obama has met privately with nine Democratic presidential hopefuls in recent months to discuss the state of the party and what strategies they should pursue to best counter president Trump in 2020, Politico reported Monday.

The meetings were arranged secretly, without the knowledge of close advisers, according to Politico. Thus far Obama has counseled former vice president Joe Biden, Democratic senators Bernie Sanders Elizabeth Warren, former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, and others, though he remains reluctant to publicly endorse any one candidate.

Sanders reportedly requested his meeting with Obama, which was held in March, because he wanted to discuss their respective visions for the future of the party and how it might best balance idealism and pragmatism.

Obama initiated his first meeting with Warren because he wanted to discuss her criticism of the $400,000 speaking fee he received from a Wall Street investment firm after leaving office. The Massachusetts lawmaker, who has made a career of lambasting large financial institutions, had called the payment “troubling” and said it exemplified the influence-peddling “that slithers through Washington.”

Biden, who has said he will wait until after this November’s midterm elections to decide whether to run for president in 2020, speaks with Obama often over the phone and met with his former running mate in January, though they reportedly did not discuss his 2020 plans.

In addition to meeting with established Washington players, Obama has also offered advice to long-shot 202o hopefuls like New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu and Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, who have both been floated as potential dark-horse contenders.

Obama has reportedly urged his fellow Democrats to focus their messaging on so-called kitchen-table issues rather than placing an emphasis on attacking President Trump and the ongoing investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Russia. In the fall, Obama plans to hit the campaign trail full time and begin endorsing candidates for the midterms.

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