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White House Chief of Staff Says Obama Won’t Endorse Candidate in Primaries

The president has reportedly met with both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in recent months, but he won’t make an endorsement until after the primaries.
January 10, 2016, 4:10pm
Photo by Mike Nelson/EPA

President Barack Obama has reportedly met with both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in recent months, but he doesn't plan to endorse either candidate in the Democratic presidential primary.

In an appearance Sunday morning on NBC's Meet the Press, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said Obama would not publicly disclose his preference for who the Democratic party selects as its candidate to replace him in office.

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"That's not our job," McDonough said, according to a transcript of the conversation provided by Politico. "That's the job of the party to make those decisions and then they'll take a look at the agendas and the positions of those candidates. Then we'll make some final decisions… we'll do exactly what has been done in the past, which is when the nominee will be set, then the president will be out there."

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The latest polls show that Clinton and Sanders are neck and neck in Iowa, which holds its caucus on February 1. According to a survey of likely voters released Sunday by NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist, Clinton holds just a three-point lead over Bernie Sanders, 48 percent to 45 percent.

In New Hampshire, which holds its presidential primary on February 9, Sanders leads Clinton 50 percent to 46 percent, a narrow lead that is within the poll's margin of error of 4.8 percent. Among potential Democratic primary voters nationwide, Sanders leads Clinton by six points, 50 percent to 44 percent.

According to the same polls, the Vermont senator also outperforms Clinton in hypothetical general-election matchups in New Hampshire and Iowa against the top Republican candidates. Sanders is projected to handily defeat Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, or Marco Rubio, while Clinton trails Trump by one percentage point, Cruz by four points, and Rubio by nine points. NBC said Sanders was polling better than Clinton mainly because of his "stronger performance with independent voters."

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Sanders' lead comes despite the fact that his campaign received significantly less media coverage compared to Clinton. According to the Tyndall Report, which tracks the flagship nightly news shows on major networks, Sanders, whose campaign broke through with a record 2.5 million small donations in 2015, only received a combined 20 minutes of airtime last year on NBC, CBS, and ABC. That's compared with Trump's 327 minutes and Clinton's 121 minutes.

Obama is set to deliver his final State of the Union address on Tuesday. McDonough said the president will focus on outlining "a vision for the future of this country," which the chief of staff described as, "a big, optimistic generous view of the future of America."

Follow Atoosa Moinzadeh on Twitter: @amoinzadeh