Joe Biden dismissed needing Barack Obama’s endorsement in his bid for the 2020 Democrat nomination, despite running on the former president’s legacy.
The former vice president, who is quick to tout the Obama-Biden administration on the campaign trail, was asked about the relationship with his former running mate during an interview with Politico on Monday. In particular, Biden was questioned if the former president’s non-endorsement would impact him down the line when primary voters are confronted between only two or three candidates for the nomination.
“No, because everyone knows I’m close with him,” Biden said, after reiterating he had not asked the former president for his support and would not do so once the field winnowed. “I don’t need an Obama endorsement.”
He went on to claim that the former president was not as crucial to putting together the vaunted Obama coalition as many believe. Biden, in fact, suggested he deserved just as much credit for ginning up black turnout in states like Pennsylvania, Colorado, Virginia, and Florida.
The former vice president said:
I was the one who was sent in. And the reason was, because all the polling and data showed that I had those relationships with the base of the Democratic Party as well as African-Americans. And so I did as many African Americans events as Barack did.
Biden was also pressed about reports that Obama had privately confided to a rival 2020 candidate that his former running mate lacks an “intimate bond” with voters, especially in states like Iowa. The former vice president acknowledged the criticism could be accurate, but chalked it up to never having the resources to properly campaign in Iowa and being forced to focus his efforts on the behalf of other elected officials.
Biden said, “He may have said that. And if it’s true, and he said it, there’s truth to it,” Biden said, adding he:
mostly campaigned for other people in the time I’ve been here. And I’ve never been in a position seeking the nomination where I have had the money and the organization to be able to get open headquarters all over the state.
Biden’s dismissal of both Obama’s endorsement and political skills is surprising given how closely the former vice president has hewed to his onetime running mate.
Since announcing his candidacy in late-April, Biden has sought to portray himself as the candidate best positioned to carry out Obama’s legacy. From issues like health care and foreign policy to immigration, Biden has all but promised his first term in the White House will amount to Obama having a third. Biden even took significant rebuke from his fellow 2020 rivals at July’s Democrat presidential primary debate for standing up for Obama’s record in office after many on the stage deemed it insufficient.
“I’m proud of having served with him, I’m proud of the job he did, I don’t think there’s anything he has to apologize for,” Biden told reporters after the debate. “I think, you know, it kind of surprised me to the degree of the criticism.”
The unbridled support of his one-time vice president appeared to not have been enough for Obama, who privately has been expressing doubts about the direction of the Democrat Party and its likely standard bearer in 2020. In recent weeks, a slew of leaked comments indicate that not only does the former president worry Biden cannot beat Trump, but that he also believes Democrats are trending too far to the left to be viable in a general election. Obama’s concerns were viewed as the impetus behind the decision of his longtime friend and confident former Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) to launch a late presidential bid.
Biden, for his part, has refused to discuss such slights openly, but the frequency with which he invokes Obama on the campaign trail has significantly decreased. In recent days, the former vice president has also shown a newfound willingness to lambast Obama’s executive style, although not directly by name. This was exhibited during a campaign swing through Iowa in November when Biden attacked Democrats for spurning bipartisanship in favor of ruling through executive order.
Biden told an audience in Knoxville, Iowa:
We almost don’t want to talk across the aisle. You hear Democrats saying, ‘I’m going to get elected and I’m going to by executive order do the following.’ Come on. Executive orders are basically menus to abuse power of the presidency.
At the time it was not lost on many that Obama had mastered the use of executives orders throughout his presidency to sidestep a Republican-controlled Congress.