NYT: Obama compares Bernie Sanders to George W. Bush, calls on Democrats to unite behind Hillary Clinton at closed door fundraiser

Obama suggests at a private Austin fundraiser that Sanders and Bush share the same appeal of authenticity

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published March 17, 2016 5:56PM (EDT)

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders   (AP/Reuters/David Becker/Carolyn Kaster/Andrew Harnik/Photo montage by Salon)
Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders (AP/Reuters/David Becker/Carolyn Kaster/Andrew Harnik/Photo montage by Salon)

Even before Hillary Clinton surprisingly swept all five Democratic primaries on Tuesday, President Obama was privately calling on Democrats to quickly rally behind her candidacy.

At a high-dollar fundraiser in Austin, Texas, last week, President Obama told Democratic donors he believes Bernie Sanders no longer maintains a viable path to the nomination and suggested that it was time for the party to come together around a Clinton candidacy instead, according to a new report from the New York Times.

While the president did not explicitly call on the Vermont senator to drop out of the race, according to three unnamed sources in attendance whose account was confirmed by a White House official, Obama did warn that if the party does not unite behind Clinton soon, the White House could be lost to Donald Trump:

Those in attendance described an urgency in Mr. Obama’s tone as he suggested that Democrats needed to come together to prevent an opening for the Republicans, whose leading candidate is Donald J. Trump, to exploit.

At the home of Texas real-estate developer Kirk Rudy, President Obama told donors who paid as much as $33,400 to the Democratic National Committee that although he understands Sanders' appeal is based on his authenticity, he warned that a certain Texas politician was also considered quite authentic during his run for the White House, referring to former President George W. Bush. According to the Times, Obama acknowledged that Clinton has failed to "excite" many parts of the Democratic base, as Sanders has, but argued that "being authentic did not necessarily translate into being a good president."

The president stopped short, however, of calling for Sanders to drop out of the race.

Elsewhere in The New York Times today --- Here’s How Bernie Sanders Could Win the Nomination

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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2016 Democratic Primary Bernie Sanders Election 2016 Elections 2016 Hillary Clinton President Obama