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Will Obama Actually Try to Tank Bernie Sanders?

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This tweet just fell on the Democratic primary discourse like a ton of bricks:

SCOOP: Dem Party sources who have spoken w @BarackObama say former prez is growing increasingly anxious about @BernieSanders rise in the national polls & where the avowed socialist would take the country; he is considering a public statement addressing it more now @FoxBusiness— Charles Gasparino (@CGasparino) January 23, 2020
Now, it’s hard to say what this actually means in real life. Here are a few possibilities:

1. This isn’t actually going to happen, but Democratic power brokers desperately want it to happen, and are leaking this based on private conversations in order to work up some anti-Bernie momentum.

2. Obama would never actually speak out, but he leaked this himself through the Democratic “sources” in order to slow Bernie down because he really doesn’t want him to be president.

3. Obama is actually going to speak out against Bernie Sanders.

No. 3 seems, on its face, unthinkable, because of the very real possibility that Sanders could win anyway, and then Obama’s words would be used by Republicans to attack Sanders on the campaign trail. It’s a massive gamble—if the attack doesn’t work to keep Sanders from the nomination, then Obama is effectively campaigning for Trump. There’s also the fact that Obama hasn’t done much speaking out against Trump himself, relatively, and he didn’t interfere in the last primary, so breaking that silence to attack Bernie, of all people, would be outrageous.

The alternative isn’t much better-of it worked, and Bernie Sanders lost the nomination, it would ensure that his die-hards would gleefully abandon the nominee in the general election, making things easier for Trump.

In both cases, it’s directly aiding Trump.

And yet, this isn’t the first time that Obama has seemingly indicated, in private, that he might take steps to try to stop a Bernie Sanders candidacy. A similar story came out in November:

Back when Sanders seemed like more of a threat than he does now, Obama said privately that if Bernie were running away with the nomination, Obama would speak up to stop him. (Asked about that, a spokesperson for Obama pointed out that Obama recently said he would support and campaign for whoever the Democratic nominee is.

It would be quite a shock if he actually said anything, but there have also been a scattering of reports indicating that Obama would see a Sanders nomination as a rebuke to his presidency—or would have in 2016, at least. One thing is beyond dispute, and that’s that Sanders has gained momentum over the last month that puts him neck-and-neck with Biden in the frontrunner’s seat nationally and in the early states. If Obama was waiting to see the viability of the Sanders campaign before he spoke out, he’s seen it. Now, he has to make a choice.

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