Barack Obama Is Quietly Getting Into the 2020 Race

Barack Obama Is Quietly Getting Into the 2020 Race by Simon Watts/AFP/Getty Images

Days after the 2016 election, Barack Obama was racked by self-doubt. “What if we were wrong?” he asked his aides, his longtime senior adviser Ben Rhodes recalls in his new memoir of the Obama presidency. Had the administration “pushed too far” in its promotion of cosmopolitan values, neglecting and underestimating the simmering anger of Rust Belt workers, white identitarians, and other culture warriors who worried their country was changing too much, too fast? “Maybe,” Obama said, “people just want to fall back into their tribe.” It’s been a mark of humility, perhaps, that Obama has remained mostly silent since then, issuing only occasional statements criticizing his successor. It may also reflect a degree of political cunning: with Democrats in disarray for much of Donald Trump’s first year in office, the party has needed time to right itself, to find a new message and new leaders.

Behind the scenes, however, Obama has been quietly re-entering Democratic politics, asserting his role as presidential kingmaker ahead of the 2020 election. While Obama has steered clear of the upcoming midterms, Politico reports that he has met with at least nine possible Democratic presidential candidates in recent months, including the nominal democratic-socialist Bernie Sanders, former Massachusetts governor and close friend Deval Patrick, and financial-reform crusader Elizabeth Warren, among others. The secret appointments, which Politico confirmed with multiple sources, represent a diverse prospective field: there is also former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, Los Angeles and South Bend Mayors Eric Garcetti and Pete Buttigeig, and, in a more long-shot bet, former Army National Guard captain Jason Kander, who was widely considered potential presidential material before losing a Missouri senatorial bid in 2016.

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