It's been well over a year since Obama left office, but reminders keep dribbling out that he's far from having left the political sphere all together. In fact, a new report from Politico confirmed that besides encouraging political engagement through his foundation and giving speeches, he's getting involved in the next presidential election — albeit still only peripherally. Obama's been secretly holding meetings with 2020 potential candidates, and he's met with several of the big names already.
According to Politico, Obama has already met at least once with Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, a close friend of Obama who's already on the radar of numerous Democratic donors, CNBC reported.
There are very few details about what's actually been discussed in the meetings, as Politico wrote that Obama's team has been entirely unresponsive to requests for more information, and the people he's met with have only provided broad discussion topics. For example, Politico described how Obama has now met twice with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — the first time in 2017 to discuss Warren's feelings about Obama accepting a $400,000 speaking fee to give a talk at a Wall Street firm, and the second this year to talk about Democratic hopefuls and President Trump, among other things.
The meeting with Sen. Bernie Sanders reportedly took a broader look at the Democratic Party and the two men's places in it, including their own roles going forward and what they felt the party should focus on. Interestingly, Politico reported that Obama brought up his ideas about idealism versus practicality in politics with Sanders, who has been criticized for being a political idealist, as Vox described.
Biden, Politico wrote, is in frequent contact with the president — which will come as happy news to anyone who wanted Obama and Biden's celebrated bromance to continue. They reportedly met in person in January, but the topics discussed didn't include a potential run with Biden's, as the former vice president is going to put the decision on hold until after the midterms. Even after Biden's decision not to run in 2016, he still has plenty of fans in the Democratic Party — in February, for example, FiveThirtyEight reported that Biden was leading in several early polls for the various 2020 Democratic primary races.
Patrick, who according to the Boston Globe has hinted that he might stage a 2020 run, has another reason for showing up to meet with the former president — he's also on the board of the Obama Foundation. Politico reported that Patrick had come to Obama for advice on at least one occasion, though, and one of their sources said that Obama was "excited to talk about the future."
Politico also reported that it wasn't just the big name potential candidates who have stopped by Obama's office. Obama has reportedly also met with numerous other politicians and possible presidential hopefuls, like former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu or South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. His eventual endorsement of a single Democratic presidential candidate will certainly be a valuable push forward whenever it comes, but the range of his meetings makes it very clear that he's not making any choices yet.
These preliminary meetings are likely to continue for a while still, as there's one big event standing between any potential Democratic candidate and his or her run for the presidency: the 2018 midterms. As Politico reported in January, Obama and his team have already been developing a plan for how to help the party in terms of both fundraising and campaigning for these all-important elections. However, the meetings he's having with presidential possibles shows that he's got his sights set on the longer term as well.