Bernie Bits: Sanders to Trade the Trail for the White House | Off Message

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Bits: Sanders to Trade the Trail for the White House


Five days before the Iowa caucuses, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) plans to leave the campaign trail Wednesday to huddle with President Barack Obama at the White House.

"The President and Sen. Sanders first discussed this meeting last December when Sen. Sanders attended the Congressional Holiday Ball," White House press secretary John Earnest said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. "The two will meet privately in the Oval Office, and there will be no formal agenda."

The confab comes just days after Obama threw shade at the Vermonter in an interview with Politico, dismissing him as nothing more than a "bright, shiny object" in the campaign to succeed him. The president spoke more favorably about his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, who is battling Sanders for the Democratic nomination. 

Though Obama campaigned for Sanders in Vermont in 2006 and Sanders returned the favor in 2008 and 2012, the two have never been close. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that in Sanders' 40 visits to the White House since Obama was elected president, visitor logs showed them meeting privately in the Oval Office just once, in December 2014. 

Sanders has recently taken to comparing his insurgent campaign to that of Obama, who came from behind to beat Clinton in the 2008 Iowa caucuses. But during a press conference Tuesday in Iowa, the senator attempted to lower expectations. 

"Obama in 2008 ran a campaign which is really going to stay in the history books. It was an unbelievable campaign. In places, they ran out of ballots, as I understand it,” Sanders said, according to BuzzFeed. “Do I think that in this campaign that we’re going to match that? I would love to see us do that. I hope we do. But frankly I don’t think we will. What happened in 2008 was extraordinary.”

He continued to temper expectations later Tuesday in an interview with the Associated Press, as he flew in a private jet from Iowa to Duluth, Minn., for the first of two rallies in the state. The Duluth event, according to media reports, drew 6,000 people, while one in St. Paul drew nearly 15,000. 

"If I lose Iowa by two votes and end up with virtually the same number of delegates, is that a must-lose situation? Is that a tragedy? No," Sanders told the AP. "We are running a campaign that will take us to the convention, and I'm very proud of the kinds of enormous gains we have made."

Sanders has clamored for media exposure since he joined the race last April, but on Tuesday his campaign appeared lukewarm about a last-minute debate scheduled for next Thursday in New Hampshire, five days before that state holds its first-in-the-nation primary. 

Hosted by MSNBC and the New Hampshire Union Leader, the debate has not met with approval by the Democratic National Committee, which has sought to limit such forums. But according to the Union Leader, both Clinton and former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley quickly committed to it. 

Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver, however, told the New York Times Tuesday that the senator would not take part in an unsanctioned debate because, he said, "we would not want to jeopardize our ability to participate in future debates." He said if the DNC changed its mind, the Sanders campaign would, too.