Obama ‘new blood’ remark has different meaning for Biden 

Former President Obama's talk about how politics need “new blood” is being seen as a blow to Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenButtigieg says he wouldn't be opposed to having Phish play at his inauguration Poll: Buttigieg surges into contention with Biden, Sanders Buttigieg to fundraise in DC with major Obama, Clinton bundlers next month: report MORE, the former vice president that Obama did not back to succeed him in 2016. 

Sources close to both men describe Obama and Biden as friends who share an admiration and respect for one another. 

But they also acknowledge recent remarks like the one Obama made this week in Hawaii represent a sort of threat to Biden, who has told allies in recent days that he’s likely to enter the 2020 presidential race.

ADVERTISEMENT

Obama was speaking broadly about the need for new blood in politics, not specifically the need for new blood in the Democratic Party.

But coming on the heels of Obama’s meeting with former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas), a rising Democratic star who most political observers see as competing with Biden for a slice of the primary electorate, it also sent a signal to the wider political world.

The remark and the burgeoning flirtation between Obama’s political network and O’Rourke also stings Biden given the 2016 campaign, when Obama backed Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton campaign chief: Mueller report 'lays out a devastating case' against Trump Hillicon Valley: Cyber, tech takeaways from Mueller report | Millions of Instagram passwords exposed internally by Facebook | DHS unrolling facial recognition tech in airports | Uber unveils new safety measures after student's killing Heavily redacted Mueller report leaves major questions unanswered MORE and nudged the vice president away from the race, insiders say.

“The president loves this guy, loves Joe, thinks the world of him. He would go in a battle ditch with Joe but that's different than giving his brand to him,” one ally of Obama’s said in describing the political dynamic and the former president's actions.

“He has an incredible soft spot for him. And I'm sure he'll do everything he can to make Joe feel good, but he won't come out and make Joe his candidate,” the ally said. “And I think that hurts Joe.”

“There's always been a fragility to their relationship,” one former administration aide added, acknowledging some rocky moments. 

Eric Schultz, the longtime White House aide who serves as a senior adviser to Obama, said the former president "thinks the world" of Biden and "they remain genuinely good friends today." 

"He has said many times over that the best decision he made in his career was to select Vice President Biden as his running mate," Schultz said. 

A source close to Obama also added that the two men speak "fairly regularly — a lot more than any potential 2020 candidate" and that the two catch up in person from time to time. To that point, Biden came to Obama's office holiday party in Washington last month, the source said. 

At the same time, there have been some sensitivities along the way. Biden, for example, saw Obama’s decision to name Clinton as his secretary of State — after a brutal 2008 primary when Obama upset Clinton to win the nomination — as intentional, the aide said. 

“He always felt like it was a decision that set her up to be the nominee and I know it stung afterward,” the administration aide said.

In Biden’s book, “Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose,” which came out last year, Biden wrote that Obama and his team told him he couldn’t beat Clinton. 

Biden writes about having lunch with Obama at the White House in August of 2015, when the then-president asked if he was planning a campaign.

“Mr. President, I’m not ready to make up my mind,” Biden recalls telling Obama. “I’m taking it one day at a time. If we do decide to go, we’ll decide in time to be viable.” 

But Biden added, “The president was not encouraging.” 

Days later, Biden writes, “a couple of people on President Obama’s political team were telling us this race just wasn’t winnable for me."

ADVERTISEMENT

“There was usually a preamble: We’re very protective of the vice president. We don’t want to see Joe get hurt. We can only imagine what he’s going through right now," Biden said in the book. "But they were not subtle. They asked [senior Biden advisers] Steve [Ricchetti] and Mike [Donilon] to consider the incredible historical forces around Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAir Force Academy will no longer allow transgender students to enroll The very early, boring Democratic primary: Biden v. Bernie Senate needs to stand up to Trump's Nixonian view of the Fed MORE in 2008, when he ran against the Clinton machine and still just barely won. And if she almost beat us, they implied, she will definitely beat you.” 

In the last two years, sources say Biden has told anyone who would listen that he would have beaten Trump, and that he hopes Obama now realizes that. 

And while he understands that Obama won’t come out and endorse him in the primary if he decides to run — the former president has said publicly that he plans to stay neutral — there is still a feeling of “annoyance,” particularly because Biden has been so loyal to the former president, according to one source. 

It's not as if Obama has been stiff-arming Biden for the last two years. 

They had a very public outing last summer when the two men had a reunion of sorts at a Georgetown bakery. 

But sources familiar with the dynamic between the two men said their public lunch — which was plastered all over social media and news sites — didn’t come about out of the blue. 

The lunch came on the heels of news reports that Obama had met with potential 2020 candidates including Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenOn The Money: Inside the Mueller report | Cain undeterred in push for Fed seat | Analysis finds modest boost to economy from new NAFTA | White House says deal will give auto sector B boost Sanders announces first endorsements in South Carolina Poll: Buttigieg surges into contention with Biden, Sanders MORE (D-Mass.), Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersButtigieg says he wouldn't be opposed to having Phish play at his inauguration Sanders announces first endorsements in South Carolina Poll: Buttigieg surges into contention with Biden, Sanders MORE (I-Vt.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerButtigieg says he wouldn't be opposed to having Phish play at his inauguration Sanders announces first endorsements in South Carolina Buttigieg to fundraise in DC with major Obama, Clinton bundlers next month: report MORE (D-N.J.), and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to offer up advice. 

Last month, after it was reported that Obama also met with O’Rourke, Vanity Fair reported that Biden was “said to be less than thrilled.” 

The story said it wasn’t so much that Obama took a meeting with O’Rourke, who some have called the next Obama. It was more about the fact that Obama was meeting with potential 2020 contenders while Biden was still weighing whether or not to enter the race. 

Bill Russo, Biden’s spokesman, said the storyline was “unequivocally false. Period.”  

But the Obama ally said it would make sense if Biden was at least a little irked. 

“Beto takes away from Biden and I think a lot of people in Biden World know that,” the ally said. “Beto is without a doubt in the top 5 [potential Democratic contenders] and Obama helped get him there.”  

One Biden ally who hopes to work on a future campaign by the former vice president said any annoyance is overblown. 

“As a unit, we understand Barack Obama has a job to do,” the Biden ally said. “He has always talked about new people entering the political process. That’s how he got in. … Just because he's willing to listen to other people doesn't mean he's endorsing any of them. ” 

The Obama ally agreed, saying the former president has been “incredibly public about his support for Joe.”

“He’ll do just about anything for him,” the ally said. “But he backs the party, not the person. He has an easy out.”