Ready to back Clinton, Obama works to unite fractured Democrats

Obama acknowledged the lingering bruised feelings and sought to shower praise on both candidates. (File photo: Reuters)

President Barack Obama opened a determined fence-mending mission Wednesday, hoping to use his popularity among Democrats to unite the party behind Hillary Clinton and draw in Bernie Sanders supporters reluctant to give up after a grueling primary fight.

In his first public remarks on the primary since Clinton clinched the nomination, Obama acknowledged the lingering bruised feelings and sought to shower praise on both candidates. He skirted a formal endorsement or a call on Sanders to drop out-- even as he spoke of the Vermont senator’s campaign in the past tense.

“It was a healthy thing for the Democratic Party to have a contested primary. And I thought Bernie Sanders brought enormous energy and his new ideas and he pushed the party and challenged them. I thought it made Hillary a better candidate,” Obama said during a taping of NBC’s “Tonight Show.” “My hope is that over the next couple of weeks we’re able to pull things together.”

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks in New York. Powered by a solid triumph in California, Clinton seizes her place in history as the first women to become a presumptive presidential nominee and sets out to unite a fractured party to confront Donald Trump.

Later, Obama made a delicate reference to the party’s awkward transition period as he talked up donors at a top-dollar fundraiser. Obama noted Democrats had “just ended -- or sort of ended -- our primary season” and declared he was “not too worried” about bringing the party together.

Obama said he was more concerned about overconfidence and Democrats not “doing the hard nuts-and-bolts work” of getting young people and low-income people out to vote.

“We’ve got to get busy,” he said. “We’ve got to work.” Obama’s impending endorsement for Clinton seemed like a fait accompli. Though the White House kept mum about the timing, all signs pointed to Obama endorsing Clinton on Thursday after the president meets with Sanders in the Oval Office.

Democratic leaders hoped the meeting, requested by Sanders, would be a moment of catharsis for the party, sending a signal that even Sanders understands the importance of electing a Democrat in November.

Yet it was unclear whether Sanders was ready to follow that script. The Vermont senator emailed supporters saying “The struggle continues” and vowing to compete in the season’s final primary contest next week in the District of Columbia.

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Last Update: Thursday, 09 June 2016 KSA 10:07 - GMT 07:07
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