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Obama tells Democrats worried about the primary field to ‘chill out’

Former president Barack Obama speaks during the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago in October. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times/AP) (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times/AP)

It’s the autumn before a presidential election year: The leaves are changing, the weather’s getting brisk, the days are getting shorter, and Democrats are getting antsy about their field of potential nominees.

On Thursday night, Barack Obama had a message for these anxious Democrats: “Chill.”

Appearing at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser attended by about 100 of Silicon Valley’s deep-pocketed donors, the former president told the crowd that it is paramount that the party stay focused on defeating President Trump next November rather than be consumed by intraparty squabbles and purity tests, CNN reported.

“Everybody needs to chill out about the candidates but gin up about the prospect of rallying behind whoever emerges from this process,” Obama said in response to a question about the primary, according to CNN.

“The field will narrow, and there’s going to be one person, and if that is not your perfect candidate and there are certain aspects of what they say that you don’t agree with and you don’t find them completely inspiring the way you’d like, I don’t care,” Obama said Thursday. “Because the choice is so stark and the stakes are so high that you cannot afford to be ambivalent in this race.”

“I’m always suspicious of purity tests during elections,” Obama said, according to the New York Times. “Because you know what? The country’s complicated.”

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The former president’s remarks came at a private fundraiser in the town of Los Altos Hills, near San Jose, hosted by physician and political donor Karla Jurvetson, where attendees paid up to $355,000 to attend, Recode reported. Obama was joined by Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, who interviewed the former president in front of guests such as Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry and his wife, Ayesha, an actress and television show host, according to Recode.

In recent weeks, Obama has begun to emerge from the sidelines of the Democratic primary with headline-generating remarks about the 2020 race. His message to Democrats has hit the same notes throughout: Don’t stress too much, be mindful of losing touch with voters, and stay focused on the goal of beating Trump.

While speaking at the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago on Oct. 29, former president Barack Obama offered some advice to young people hoping to impact society. (Video: Reuters)

Obama’s engagement coincides with rising panic among some party figures that the liberal candidates are dragging the conversation too far to the left and that a more centrist, unifying approach will be required to defeat Trump next November.

Moderate Democratic candidates have attempted to seize their moment during a conversation dominated so far by liberal policies espoused by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (Vt.). At Wednesday night’s Democratic debate, candidates such as Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Cory Booker (N.J.), along with South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, elbowed their way to the fore with calls for “unity” and attacks on proposals to overhaul the health-care system with Medicare-for-all.

Moderates fight back in a presidential race defined so far by liberal ideas

Meanwhile, two additional candidates with a centrist approach have attempted to join the fray: Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick entered the primary last week, and former New York mayor and billionaire Mike Bloomberg filed candidate paperwork on Thursday after initially ruling out a run.

Obama has so far declined to endorse in the 2020 Democratic primary, despite the fact that his former vice president, Joe Biden, is running, and Obama has also refrained from criticizing any candidate by name. But he has shared his general thoughts that to beat Trump, Democrats must be “bold in our vision” while staying “rooted in reality” so as not to turn away more-moderate voters.

“This is still a country that is less revolutionary than it is interested in improvement,” Obama said at a Nov. 15 meeting of the Democracy Alliance 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.

“My point is that even as we push the envelope and we are bold in our vision,” he said Nov. 15, “we also have to be rooted in reality and the fact that voters, including Democratic voters and certainly persuadable independents or even moderate Republicans, are not driven by the same views that are reflected on certain, you know, left-leaning Twitter feeds or the activist wing of our party.”

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