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After Praising Clinton, Obama Holds 'Informal' Meeting With Bernie Sanders


Bernie Sanders spent some time today in the office he hopes to win - the Oval Office. He paid a visit to the White House and met with President Obama for about 45 minutes. Here's Sanders after that meeting.


BERNIE SANDERS: The president and I discussed this morning a number of issues, foreign policy issues, domestic issues, occasionally, a little bit of politics.

CORNISH: NPR's Scott Horsley reports on the president's role in the Democratic presidential race.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Obama won't be on the ballot in November, but he's still got a lot riding on the outcome. Republicans have promised to undo much of his work on climate, health care and foreign policy if they win the White House. Obama told reporters last month he's not worried.


BARACK OBAMA: I'm anticipating a Democrat succeeding. I'm confident in the wisdom of the American people on that front.

HORSLEY: But which Democrat? Some casual observers have likened Bernie Sanders' insurgent campaign to Obama's own in 2008. Both were competing, after all, against Hillary Clinton. But in an interview with Politico's Glenn Thrush, Obama had kind words for his former rival who later became his secretary of state.


OBAMA: I've gotten to know Hillary really well, and she is a good, smart, tough person who cares deeply about this country.

HORSLEY: In the same interview, Obama said he understands Sanders' appeal to the most progressive wing of the Democratic Party. He called Sanders fearless and a man with nothing to lose.


OBAMA: Bernie is somebody who, although I don't know as well because he wasn't, obviously, in my administration, has the virtue of saying exactly what he believes.

HORSLEY: Sometimes Sanders says he believes the president is wrong.


SANDERS: You can call what I'm doing today whatever you want. You can call it a filibuster. You can call it a very long speech.

HORSLEY: This is Sanders back in 2010 when he took to the Senate floor for eight-and-a-half hours, denouncing a deal Obama had cut with congressional Republicans to extend Bush-era tax cuts.


SANDERS: In my view, the agreement that they reached is a bad deal for the American people. I think we can do better.

HORSLEY: Sanders acknowledged other differences today. He's currently blocking Obama's nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration because of the man's ties to the pharmaceutical industry, and he strongly opposes the president's Asia-Pacific trade deal.


SANDERS: But by and large, over the last seven years on major issue after major issue, I have stood by his side where he has taken on unprecedented Republican obstructionism and has tried to do the right thing for the American people.

HORSLEY: Sanders said today he'll need a strong turnout to win the Iowa caucuses next week, though he doubts he can match the turnout effort that helped Obama beat Clinton there eight years ago. The Iowa campaign is still a fond memory for Obama, but he stressed in that Politico interview he's not taking sides just yet.


OBAMA: The relevant contrast is not between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. The relevant contrast is between Bernie and Hillary and Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

HORSLEY: As hands-off as he is now, the White House spokesman says Obama will be actively and personally engaged once the general election campaign against Republicans is underway. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.
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