The Slatest

President Obama Gives Bernie Sanders a Subtle Push Toward the Exit

Bernie Sanders leaves the White House after meeting with President Obama on Jan. 27.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton’s five-for-five sweep of this past Tuesday’s Democratic primaries turned her into her party’s presumptive nominee. President Obama, though, appears to have come to that conclusion even before voting began during the Super Tuesday sequel, via the New York Times:

In unusually candid remarks, President Obama privately told a group of Democratic donors last Friday that Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont was nearing the point at which his campaign against Hillary Clinton would end, and that the party must soon come together to back her. …

Mr. Obama chose his words carefully, and did not explicitly call on Mr. Sanders to quit the race, according to those in the room. Still, those in attendance said in interviews that they took his comments as a signal to Mr. Sanders that perpetuating his campaign, which is now an uphill climb, could only help the Republicans recapture the White House.

Obama has been careful not to explicitly endorse Clinton during the campaign, though there’s never been much doubt that he would choose his former secretary of state over Sanders if he were the one picking his own successor. Between that preference and Bernie’s willingness to critique the president’s record on the trail, Obama’s eagerness to close the book on a Democratic fight between an establishment candidate and a fiery outsider is hardly a shock.

For most Democratic hopefuls, a soft push to the door from the sitting president and standard-bearer of the party would be difficult to ignore. Bernie, though, is a special case given he only joined the party so he could run for the nomination. If the delegate math that has left him with no path to the nomination barring a catastrophic collapse from Clinton isn’t enough to force him from the race, the president’s words aren’t going to either.

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the Democratic primary.