U.S. President Barack Obama met with Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders at the White House on Wednesday.
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Sanders described the meeting as productive and downplayed any concerns that Obama favors his rival, Hillary Clinton, for the left-leaning Democratic Party's presidential nomination, after he praised her in an interview last week.
"He and the vice president have tried to be fair and evenhanded in the process, and I expect they will continue to be that way," Sanders told reporters outside the White House after the 45-minute meeting.
Obama does not plan to endorse a candidate in the Democratic primary process, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
"It's good for the Democratic Party for there to be such a robust debate going on about who should be our party's nominee," Earnest said.
Polls show Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont running in the Democratic primaries, and Clinton running neck and neck in the Iowa caucuses, which will be held Monday. Clinton served as Obama’s secretary of state during his first term in office after losing the Democratic primary to him in 2008.
Obama discussed the candidates in an interview with Politico’s OffMessage podcast released Monday.
“Bernie came in with the luxury of being a complete long shot and just letting loose,” Obama said. “I think Hillary came in with both the privilege –and burden – of being perceived as the front-runner You’re always looking at the bright, shiny object that people haven’t seen before – that’s a disadvantage to her.”
Clinton and Obama have met several times since she left her position in 2013.
Obama reportedly will not endorse a candidate during the primary.