Former Vice President Joe Biden got a jolt of momentum on Tuesday after securing an endorsement from former President Obama, who plans to go to work right away as a fundraiser and top surrogate for the campaign.
The Biden campaign sent out its first plea for donations under Obama’s name only minutes after the endorsement came through. Sources with knowledge of internal campaign deliberations said there are discussions underway about employing Obama in virtual fundraisers with major donors and other video fundraising efforts aimed at small dollar donors.
On the media front, there is talk about pairing Obama and Biden side-by-side in joint television appearances.
The Biden campaign will also benefit from the involvement of the enormously popular former first lady Michelle Obama, who will chip in with fundraising, voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts, according to aides.
“Obviously that’s a really big deal,” said one source familiar with the internal discussions, adding that it should all come together “pretty quickly.”
Although Obama stayed on the sidelines while the Democratic primary was in full swing, his endorsement was never in doubt.
In a nearly 12-minute-long direct-to-camera address from his home in Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood, Obama made the case for why the nation could use Biden’s steady hand in this time of crisis.
Obama cast his former top deputy as honest and decent, drawing an implied contrast with President Trump, and said Biden’s experience with personal loss and his connection to ordinary Americans make him the best candidate Democrats can put forward in this uncertain time.
“The kind of leadership that’s guided by knowledge and experience, honesty and humility, empathy and grace — that kind of leadership doesn’t just belong in our state capitols and legislatures, it belongs in the White House,” Obama said. “And that’s why I’m so proud to endorse Joe Biden for president of the United States.”
A source close to Obama said the president has said he “intends to work his tail off” for Biden and “he’ll do just that.”
The source added that Obama’s team is “taking its cues” from the Biden campaign on how the former president can be most helpful.
The two teams are now in touch regularly, sources on both sides say, with longtime Obama adviser Eric Schultz helping to coordinate Obama’s involvement in the campaign in the coming months.
Democrats have been licking their chops over the prospect of reuniting Obama and Biden, who had a famously close friendship and partnership over the course of their eight years together in the White House.
There is some disappointment that the endorsement had to come during a near-universal countrywide shutdown.
Democrats are lamenting the missed opportunity of having the Obamas and Bidens on the same stage together at a triumphant campaign rally carried by all the networks and cable news outlets.
But they say Obama’s involvement will be an enormous boost for Biden until campaigning returns to normal.
For instance, Democratic fundraisers say that the money for campaigns has all but dried up, as wealthy investors worry about their own economic stability or feel their money is better spent giving to causes affiliated with the pandemic.
Biden has never been a prolific fundraiser himself, and his primary victories were all the more impressive because he pulled them off while being financially limited in comparison to some of his rivals.
An aide said that Obama won’t just participate in fundraisers, but will also bring his entire money team and Rolodex along with him to help Biden cut into Trump’s money advantage.
“It will give new life to a campaign that is absolutely in need of a cash injection,” said one Democratic fundraiser. “If this primary campaign had lasted a couple of months longer, I honestly don’t know that he would have had the money to make it. He doesn’t have the best grassroots fundraising, but now every major donor will be looking to dust off the cobwebs and get back to work.”
Obama’s endorsement comes a day after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) endorsed Biden, giving him the support of the biggest name on the progressive left.
With Obama and Sanders in tow, Democrats are hopeful they’ll reap benefits from the full party rallying behind the presumptive nominee at an early stage.
“The big aim is to send a strong message about unification of the party,” the aide said.
There are still questions about whether all of Sanders’s supporters, and young people in particular, will turn out for Biden.
In his video message, Obama spoke at length about Sanders’s achievements and legacy, and about how the Democrats would need him and his supporters to defeat Trump.
“Bernie is an American original, a man who has devoted his life to giving voice to people’s hopes, dreams and frustration,” Obama said.
“The energy and enthusiasm he’s inspired, especially in young people, will be critical in moving America in a direction of progress and hope, because for the second time in 12 years, we’ll have the incredible task of rebuilding our economy, and to meet the moment the Democratic Party will have to be bold.”
The Obamas remain two of the most popular figures in Democratic politics.
Democrats say they could be effective media presences for Biden, who at times struggles to clearly communicate.
Democratic strategist Joel Payne said Obama, as “orator in chief,” “can probably articulate most things better than most people.”
And Democrats believe the Obamas will bring new energy to the campaign, potentially helping to address Biden’s enthusiasm deficit against Trump. One Biden ally who speaks to campaign aides frequently said Obama could help bookend the campaign by bringing excitement to the campaign as well as money.
“It sounds like the way they’ll use him is to be an energy turnout machine,” Payne said.
“And who can turn up the heat on the Democratic base better than Obama?” he added. “I think he’s going to be used strategically to help Biden surge with people of color and young voters but also with his crossover appeal to moderates and people that voted to Donald Trump in 2016.”
Michelle Obama is a best-selling author, whose memoir has sold more than 10 million copies. She’s a fashion and pop culture icon, and some Democrats believed her combination of pop culture influence and political acumen would have made her a formidable candidate in her own right if she had decided to run for president.
“Having Mrs. Obama out there will be as big as her husband,” one longtime Biden ally said.
Still, Payne cautioned that Biden shouldn’t overuse Obama, particularly by saying he’d be an “Obama third term.”
“Obama’s power cannot be handed over in that way,” said Payne, who worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. “We tried that. It didn’t work.”