Bernie Sanders meets Barack Obama at White House

Democratic contender has ‘productive and constructive meeting’ at Oval Office

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders answers questions outside the White House with his wife, Jane, after meeting with US President Barack Obama. Photograph:  Win McNamee/Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders answers questions outside the White House with his wife, Jane, after meeting with US President Barack Obama. Photograph: Win McNamee/Getty Images

 

Bernie Sanders, the senator running a close race with Hillary Clinton for the first Democratic presidential vote in Iowa, met Barack Obama on Wednesday and afterwards referred to the president’s victory over her in the 2008 caucus when discussing his own chances. 

Speaking after his hour-long meeting with Mr Obama in the Oval Office, the self-proclaimed democratic socialist said his victory in next Monday’s Iowa Democratic caucus would depend on voter turnout.

“I am not saying that we could do what Barack Obama did in 2008 – I wish we could but I don’t think we can,” said the Vermont independent. “But if there is a large turnout, I think we can win; if not I think we are going to be struggling.”

Mr Sanders has eroded Mrs Clinton’s lead in Iowa, the closely watched contest that kicks off the 2016 presidential race, in a surprise come-from-behind campaign compared by some to Mr Obama’s in 2008.

Although the former secretary of state is the clear frontrunner in the national polls, the two are in a statistical dead heat in Iowa, while Mr Sanders has a commanding lead in New Hampshire, the second state to nominate the party’s candidate in a primary eight days later.

A new poll from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut gives Mr Sanders 49 per cent support in Iowa, four points ahead of Mrs Clinton.

Mr Sanders said he had a “very productive and constructive meeting” with Mr Obama and that they talked about domestic and foreign policy issues “and occasionally a little politics”.

Tipping the scale

The 74-year-old rejected the view that Mr Obama’s interview with political news agency Politico, in which he lavished praise on Mrs Clinton, was tipping the scale towards his rival. Mr Sanders said he expected the president to continue to be “fair and even-handed”. He laughed when asked by one reporter if Mr Obama gave him any advice on how to beat Mrs Clinton.

Even though Mr Obama has promised not to intervene in the Democratic primary until a nominee is picked, he clearly appeared to be leaning in favour of Mrs Clinton in his interview with Politico, describing her as “wicked smart”. “She can govern and she can start here, day one, more experienced than any non-vice-president has ever been to this office,” he said.

In his interview, Mr Obama likened Mr Sanders to a “bright, shiny object” and said he had the “luxury of being a complete long-shot and just letting loose” but rejected any comparison with his 2008 campaign.