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President Obama Expected To Endorse His Former Vice President Joe Biden


It has been a long time coming, but later today, President Barack Obama will throw his public support behind Joe Biden. President Obama made it clear that he intended to stay out of the Democratic primary, and he has held to that, waiting to endorse his former vice president until there were no more viable challengers. Bernie Sanders endorsed Biden yesterday. NPR's Juana Summers confirmed the story for NPR and joins us now. Hi, Juana.


MARTIN: How much does an endorsement matter when there aren't any other choices?

SUMMERS: Yeah, Rachel, that's a great point. It matters less in that he's endorsing former Vice President Biden as Biden as the last man standing. But what it does is it sends some powerful signals to folks who support former President Obama. He is a very popular figure in the Democratic primary. If some of the folks who were part of the coalition that he brought together in 2008 and again in 2012 are still on the sidelines, undecided as to whether they will support former Vice President Biden in a general, it could have an impact.

The other big thing that I think this does is it opens the door for former President Obama to play a role in the general election. He remains one of the party's most powerful surrogates, and he can be out there campaigning for Biden at a time where it's been difficult to break into the news cycle and cultivate momentum as the pandemic has shaken up all aspects of American life.

MARTIN: Right. So President Obama has intentionally kept a low profile during the primary. But I mean, do - how much do we know about what he was doing behind the scenes?

SUMMERS: Yeah, so we do know a little bit about that. We know that former President Obama had spoken to all of the candidates throughout the course of the campaign at various times, offering his advice and counsel. We also know that he spoke to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who endorsed Biden yesterday, quite regularly despite the fact that their policies, there's some space between those.

MARTIN: So you mentioned the fact that Biden basically needed this endorsement if he was going to incorporate Barack Obama on the campaign trail, which no doubt he wants to do. I mean, how many times did we hear Joe Biden talking about his good friend Barack? So now we're going to see this friendship presumably unfold on the campaign trail, right?

SUMMERS: Presumably. But one of the things we don't know, Rachel, is what the campaign trail will look like in the weeks and months ahead. Right now, just like you and I, everyone is in their homes. The candidates are on Zoom or doing video town halls. We don't know if we'll see traditional rallies where these two men can stand together and talk.

But one way that former President Obama could have an immediate impact is in fundraising. He is one of the party's most storied fundraisers. So it would make sense to me that the Biden campaign would want Obama involved as much as possible given the cash advantage that Republicans currently have that Biden needs to chip into in a hurry.

MARTIN: Right. Michelle Obama's popularity has really only increased since she left the White House. Do we expect to see much of her in the campaign, even if it is virtual?

SUMMERS: Yeah, when we heard this news, I couldn't help but think about those arenas that she packed in a prepandemic era when she released her memoir "Becoming." This is one of the big questions we're looking to answer, as she is so popular. But she is someone who has not waded into electoral politics significantly.

But we did see something earlier this week. The former first lady's group When We All Vote came out in support of expanding access to vote by mail, online voter registration and early voting. She made a big step publicly on that, saying that that is an urgent need. That raises the question - will she go out and campaign for former Vice President Biden now as he's looking to build a coalition much like the one that her husband built in 2008?

MARTIN: All right. NPR's Juana Summers reporting on President Obama's expected endorsement of his former Vice President Joe Biden. That is expected later today. Juana, thanks for bringing this our way. We appreciate it.

SUMMERS: Thanks so much, Rachel. Take care. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.
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