Business Insider Edition

Bernie Sanders cut an ad featuring him and Obama and people are very confused by it

Kayla Epstein , Business Insider US
 Mar 05, 2020, 01:27 PM
Mark Makela/Getty Images
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign released a new advertisement featuring Sanders and former President Barack Obama side by side, in which Obama can be heard praising Sanders and saying "Feel the Bern!"
  • Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who dropped out of the race on Wednesday, also cut ads implying Obama supported him. Obama has not endorsed any candidate in the Democratic primary.
  • The ad was met with confusion and criticism by the Biden campaign, former Obama officials, and journalists. Sanders "wasn't particularly close" with Obama, former advisor David Axelrod tweeted.
  • Sanders appears to be taking on former Vice President Joe Biden, who is ascendant after a night of Super Tuesday wins.
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Former President Barack Obama has not endorsed any candidate in the 2020 primary, but according to a new ad released by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the former president is made to look like he's feeling the Bern.

Hours after Joe Biden, Obama's vice president, staged a surprise comeback to claim 10 Super Tuesday states, including Virginia and North Carolina, Sanders dropped an ad featuring himself and Obama walking side by side through the White House and laughing together.

Sanders is not the first candidate to cut such an ad. Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who dropped out of the race on Wednesday, drew criticism from several former Obama aides after he released a similar ad that appeared to imply Obama had endorsed him, when he in fact did not.

But Sanders has long positioned himself as an anti-Establishment candidate, and his vows to take on the Washington elite has won him a fervent base of supporters. The campaign's decision to release an ad placing him alongside the the figurehead of the Democratic Party was met with confusion by journalists and a prominent Obama aide and derision from Biden staffers.

"The day after a very tough day in which black voters broke heavily against him, @BernieSanders surfaces ad featuring past praise from @BarackObama, with whom he wasn't particularly close," tweeted former Obama senior advisor David Axelrod.

Biden's rapid response director Andrew Bates told Insider in a statement, "Barack Obama chose Vice President Biden to be his partner over 8 years in the White House... By contrast, Senator Sanders explored a primary challenge to President Obama," a reference to a report in the Atlantic that Sanders has denied.

"No quantity of ads can rewrite history," Bates said.

On Twitter, Bates replied to one reporter who questioned the logic of the ad with a snarky upside-down smiling emoji. Meanwhile, reporters scratched their heads about Sanders' latest play.

The ad appeared to be part of an ad strategy focused on hitting Biden, who is on the ascent and is now Sanders' chief rival for the Democratic nomination. The Sanders campaign also released two other ads, one hitting Biden for his support of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and another that claims Biden wants to cut Social Security.

"Bernie is somebody who has the virtue of saying exactly what he believes," Obama says in a voice over. "Great authenticity, great passion, and is fearless."

"People are ready for a call to action," Obama's voice is heard saying. "They want honest leadership who cares about them ... they want somebody who's going to find for them ... and they will find it in Bernie."

The spot ends with a brief clip of Obama speaking at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, in which former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won the nomination. "Feel the Bern!" Obama says.

The voiceover actually splices together several different Obama speeches and interviews, CNN's Daniel Dale pointed out, including a 2016 interview with Politico and Obama's DNC speech, where he was actually attempting to unite the party behind Clinton after a combative primary election.

The Sanders campaign did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment.

In fact, while Obama has stayed away from endorsing in the 2020 campaign, he has made rare public remarks about his thoughts on the race, including a warning that many interpreted as a critique of Sanders.

"This is still a country that is less revolutionary than it is interested in improvement," Obama said at a November 2019 event in Washington. "They like seeing things improved. But the average American doesn't think that we have to completely tear down the system and remake it. And I think it's important for us not to lose sight of that."

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