Joe Biden on Thursday morning insisted that he does not want Barack Obama to endorse him in the Democratic presidential race yet, claiming that if the former president had weighed in before Super Tuesday, it would have diminished the surprising string of victories that resurrected his campaign and frontrunner status.
“Imagine he endorsed me, and we won as big as we did yesterday,” Biden said during a "Today Show" interview. “You’d all say I won because of Barack. I’m going to win because of me. I earned this.”
The former vice president won 10 out of 14 states on Tuesday, securing him a total of 566 delegates. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders trails at 501 delegates, according to the Associated Press’s delegate tracker. Candidates need 1,991 delegates in order to clinch the nomination during the party’s July convention in Milwaukee.
Although Obama has been silent publicly about the increasingly bitter primary, he reportedly spoke with Pete Buttigieg on Sunday night, when the former South Bend mayor exited the presidential race. According to The New York Times, Obama did not specifically encourage Buttigieg to endorse Biden, but asked him to think about how to use his considerable leverage. Buttigieg, along with Amy Klobuchar, coalesced Biden on Monday, boosting his status as the best moderate to challenge Sanders.
Obama also called his former running mate after his overwhelming victory in South Carolina, his first of the primary season, to congratulate him, Bloomberg reported. But Obama has remained reticent to put his thumb on the 2020 election’s scales until a Democratic nominee is selected, instead leaving the choice of the party’s nominee to the voters.
On the campaign trail, Biden frequently invokes Obama and highlights his friendship with the former commander-in-chief. Of course, he’s not the only candidate to do so.
After a disappointing night on Tuesday, Sanders, the next day, unleashed a wave of ads attacking Biden while touting his own relationship with Obama. One of the ads features a voiceover of Obama saying that Sanders has “the virtue of saying exactly what he believes, great authenticity, great passion and is fearless.”
Biden’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but in a statement to Politico, a spokesperson characterized the Obama ad as disingenuous, pointing to Sanders’ past questioning of Obama’s progressive record and reportedly weighing a primary challenge against the incumbent during the 2012 presidential election.
“It’s not at all a surprise,” Biden said on Thursday. “Everyone is embracing Barack. He’s a great president. He’s a good guy. The idea that Bernie Sanders was a great supporter of the president of the United States and shares his views? I mean, come on.”
Biden also defended his voting record after renewed criticism from Sanders, who also targeted Biden over his remarks in 1995 advocating freezing federal spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. In another, Sanders highlighted a union auto worker touting his own longtime record on opposing trade deals -- while highlighting Biden’s own support for the agreements.
“My record has been so thoroughly investigated, you guys rightly looked at it, every vote I’ve ever taken,” Biden said. “Now let’s go to Michigan, Bernie, and see if that’s true. I’m the guy who helped bail out the auto industry. What’d you do, old buddy?”
The Michigan primary is set to take place on March 10.
Biden also challenged Sanders over his own record, particularly his votes against a bill in 1993 that established national background checks and his support of a bill in 2003 and 2005 that protects gun companies from lawsuits if their products are used to commit crimes.
Sanders, a self-avowed democratic socialist who hails from rural and gun-friendly Vermont, has since admitted that approving the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in 2005 was a mistake and has pledged to repeal the law.
“I’ve cast thousands of votes, including bad votes,” Sanders said. “That was a bad vote.”
The National Rifle Association gave Sanders an F in 2018 for his voting record.