Obama privately urges Dems to rally around Clinton

President Obama last week urged Democratic donors at a closed-door gathering to rally around Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Democrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 Poll: Warren leads Biden in Maine by 12 points MORE, telling them Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale 'Medicare for All' costs trillion over 10 years MORE’s presidential campaign is nearing its endpoint, The New York Times reported Thursday.

Obama acknowledged to the donors that Clinton suffers from a perceived lack of authenticity, but called it an overrated political virtue, the report said.

Obama said that his predecessor, George W. Bush, was thought to be an authentic politician, but reminded donors he successfully ran against Bush's record in his first presidential campaign.

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The comments were made in Austin, Texas, during a private question-and-answer session with donors, some of whom described the president's remarks to the Times. 

They represent a rare moment of candor from Obama, who has tried not to influence the outcome of the Democratic presidential primary. 

But Clinton, who served as Obama’s secretary of State, has long been perceived to be his preferred candidate. 

Donors said the president urged Democrats to come together around Clinton to prevent an opening for Republican front-runner Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE in the general election. 

White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Thursday acknowledged the president's comments. 

“President Obama made a case that would be familiar to all of you, which is that as Democrats move through this competitive primary process, we need to be mindful of the fact that our success in November in electing a Democratic president is dependent on the commitment and ability of the Democratic Party to come together behind our nominee,” he told reporters.

Trump solidified his standing as the GOP's standard-bearer by winning last Tuesday’s Florida primary, handily defeating his fellow candidates — including Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHillicon Valley: Warren turns up heat in battle with Facebook | Instagram unveils new data privacy feature | Advocacy group seeks funding to write about Big Tech TikTok adds former lawmakers to help develop content moderation policies This week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington MORE, who promptly dropped out of the race after losing his home state.

Obama has not always done a good job of hiding his opinions, suggesting in a January podcast interview that he believes Clinton best understands what it takes to occupy the Oval Office. 

The president’s comments to donors came days after Sanders pulled off an upset victory over Clinton in Michigan but before she defeated him Tuesday in four primary states, expanding her delegate lead. 

Mindful about keeping the party united going into November, Obama was careful not to officially endorse a candidate in front of the donors.

Earnest said he “did not indicate or specify a preference in the race.”

The president voted absentee in Tuesday’s Illinois Democratic presidential primary, but the White House has not publicly revealed which candidate he cast a ballot for.

While Obama recognized both candidates have strengths, he once again praised Clinton as tough and qualified and said she would carry on the legacy of his administration. 

This story was updated at 2:38 p.m.