After maintaining a neutral stance during the primary race, President Obama has officially put his support behind Hillary Clinton. This week, Election Central will take a closer look at the relationship, going back to when the two served together in the United States Senate, through a rivalry for the 2008 nomination, to Clinton’s role in the president’s administration, and what his recent support of her as the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee means in the upcoming general election.
From 2004 to 2008, Obama and Clinton served side-by-side in the Senate—he representing Illinois and she, New York. Both resigned their positions in 2008 to campaign against one another for the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate nomination. As was expected, the two exchanged harsh criticisms in the name of competition.
Shortly after Obama won the party’s nomination, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein hosted a private meeting at her home between the two rivals. Many supporters of both were surprised when Obama asked Clinton to serve as his Secretary of State. Some say that it was the 2009 Climate Summit in Copenhagen that solidified a relationship between the two, working together as diplomats representing the United States among other world leaders.
Some compare Clinton’s 2008 concession speech as similar to the current relationship between her and Sanders. Like Clinton, Senator Bernie Sanders has been insistent on pursuing particular policy priorities that matter very strongly to his supporters. Many Democrats are hoping that, as in 2008, the intense campaign rivalry that has played out over the last many months will put the Left in a better position for the fight in the general election against GOP candidate Donald Trump.
When it became clear that Clinton would seek the 2016 nomination, she shifted gears from being a loyal defendant of the Obama administration policies to identifying her own policies. Some of her stated positions on issues differed from the president’s, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
In a public address, last week, President Obama said that there was no one more qualified to seek the White House and that Hillary Clinton has, “the courage, the compassion and the heart to get the job done.”
Shortly after Clinton secured the nomination, President Obama met with Bernie Sanders at the senator’s request. During that meeting, Obama encouraged Sanders to shift his focus to unifying the party and supporting Clinton as the party’s presumptive nominee. (It is unclear how Sanders responded to the meeting, although there was a report that he would not likely take his campaign to the convention floor as previously suggested.) Sanders did come out of the meeting last week promising his campaign supporters that he would continue his campaign to the end, the Democratic Party’s final content–the Washington D.C. primary, which Clinton won on Tuesday.
Other prominent Democrats have followed the president’s announcement with public displays of support. Vice President Joe Biden was addressing a crowd at the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy Convention when he officially supported Clinton. And, despite being considered one of the few “hold-outs” in the Senate, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren has also publicly lent her support. Both coupled their endorsement with vehement opposition to Republican nominee Donald Trump.