Democrats can count on former president Barack Obama to again break with tradition to attack his successor during the 2020 election, much like he did during the 2018 midterms.
“I can tell you he’s very concerned about the direction that our country is going. He was involved in the midterm elections, my expectation is he would do the same in the general election,” Valerie Jarrett, close friend and former advisor of president Obama, told BBC HARDtalk’s Stephen Sakur.
“I think all of us good Democrats need to get behind whoever is the nominee and ensure that that person wins the election, which is why I’ve counseled several of the candidates to not beat up so much on their opponents that whoever is the nominee goes into the general election in a weakened state.”
Jarrett described the dozens of Democrats vying to take on Trump is an “embarrassment of riches,” but repeatedly refused to endorse any of the “terrific candidates.”
“I’m not going to put my thumb on the scale. Because at this time when Barack Obama was running in 2007, he was down by 30 points and Hillary Clinton was the inevitable candidate, so I’m not going to put my thumb on the scale,” she said. “We haven’t even had our first debates.”
When asked specifically about Joe Biden, Jarrett heaped praise, dodged and weaved, but refused to endorse.
“I’m not saying anything one way or another because I think we have some really great candidates in the race. I’ve said quite publicly I think that vice president Biden was indispensable to president Obama. He’d make a terrific president,” said Jarrett, who claimed Biden’s age – 78 on inauguration day – isn’t an issue.
“I don’t think that’s too old,” she said.
Jarrett, who has advised the Obamas since the 90s and is now leveraging the relationship to sell her memoir, insisted that Obama will one day be viewed as an amazing leader, through it could take a few decades.
“I think he was an outstanding president and I think history will reflect that,” Jarrett said. “You can’t judge him so quickly. You have to wait a while. I think as time evolves and we have greater distance, all the historians … say it takes 10, 15, 20, 30, 40 years before you really appreciate the legacy of a president.”
While America continues to digest Obama’s legacy, the 44th president will be campaigning like few before him, assuming he lends the same sort of support he did for Clinton in 2016.
NPR noted that “no president has campaigned strongly for his chosen successor in at least 100 years” than Obama did for Clinton in the last presidential election, while he was still in office.
Obama argued Trump was “uniquely unqualified” on the economy, and “temperamentally unfit” to deal with foreign policy. In 2018, he campaigned again in the midterms, calling Trump out by name and framing the election as a battle between righteous Democrats and racist Republicans.
“It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause,” Obama lectured in 2018. “He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years.”
With Trump’s clear successes in supercharging the U.S. economy, driving down black and Hispanic unemployment to the lowest levels ever, and forcing Mexico to step up immigration controls, it’s unclear whether Obama will stick to the same script in 2020.
What is for certain is he’ll stump for whoever Democrats pick to oppose Trump, be it his flip-flopping former vice president, an elderly socialist from Vermont, or any of the other dozens in the running.