Two people familiar with the June 27 meeting at the White House attested to the remarks. According to the tipsters who spoke on condition of anonymity, the lunch was part of a regular catch-up between the two Democrats. Biden served as vice president under Obama in both the latter's terms from 2008 to 2016.
The former president clarified during the lunch that his concerns weren't about Biden's political abilities. Instead, he pointed out that the real estate mogul-turned-president maintains an "iron grip" on the Republican Party. Aside from this, Obama also noted that Trump has an intensely loyal following and that the conservative media ecosystem remains friendly to him.
These, alongside a polarized nation, underline Obama's worry that Trump could be a more formidable candidate than many in the Democratic Party realize. Despite this, the former president promised to "do all he can" for a second Biden term.
The lunch wasn't entirely all work and no play, per the tipsters. During lighter moments of their get-together, Obama and Biden discussed the current president's intent to vacation at Sunnylands in California. An insider disclosed that Biden had planned to stay there in August for part of his summer vacation, but the idea was scrapped because of concerns about extreme heat. (Related: Working hard or hardly working? Biden spent 39% of his presidency on VACATION.)
According to the White House, there was no specific agenda for the June 27 meeting. People briefed on the conversation said the two discussed a range of political, policy and personal matters – including updates about their families.
Before departing the White House that day, Obama completed his first task to help Biden's reelection campaign. He filmed a short video for the incumbent's fundraising, reminding viewers: "Giving five or 10 bucks — whatever you can — to Biden's campaign makes a real difference."
The 44th president remains highly popular among Democrats years after his stay at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue ended. While Obama's role in the 2024 election has not yet been determined, his aides say he is likely to reprise his playbook from recent polls – including large rallies in swing states and fundraisers for Biden and other Democratic candidates.
Obama senior advisor Eric Schultz declined to comment on the June 27 lunch, but said the former president will tailor his campaign activity to maximize its effect. He said in a statement: "We place a huge emphasis on finding creative ways to reach new audiences, especially tools that can be directly tied to voter mobilization or volunteer activations. We are deliberate in picking our moments because our objective is to move the needle."
Aides for the incumbent also welcomed Obama's early commitment to help in Biden's reelection. Biden campaign spokesman TJ Ducklo said in a statement: "Biden is grateful for his unwavering support, and looks forward to once again campaigning side-by-side with Obama to win in 2024 and finish the job for the American people."
However, some in Biden's circle harbor a lingering frustration over Obama's role ahead of the 2016 election. During that time, the then-president made it clear to his aides his belief of Hillary Clinton being the Democratic nominee to succeed him. The former first lady lost to Trump during that year's elections.
Aside from this, some Biden aides were frustrated over Obama's late endorsement in 2020. Others, however, claim that Obama worked behind the scenes to ensure his vice president secures the Democratic nomination before endorsing Biden.
Meanwhile, many senior Biden aides strongly rejected the notion of any tension between the two camps. They cited the heavy overlap among Obama and Biden staffers, alongside the 44th president's energetic involvement in the past two election cycles.
"There must have been an epic internal coverup operation because that supposed dynamic would be news to everyone who actually works for either person," said White House spokesman Andrew Bates. "No one has been a stronger supporter of the Biden administration and its agenda than Obama, his team and veterans of the Obama administration."
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