New book sheds light on Obama-Biden relationship during the 2020 election

"Lucky: How Joe Biden Barely Won the Presidency" came out on Tuesday.

March 3, 2021, 4:19 PM

At a dinner with Black business leaders in October 2019, former President Barack Obama praised Elizabeth Warren, dismissed Pete Buttigieg as a candidate -- and forgot to mention now President Joe Biden, according to a new book on the 2020 election.

"It's sort of a metaphor for where Obama's head was from the beginning of the campaign," Jonathan Allen, co-author of "Lucky: How Joe Biden Barely Won the Presidency," told Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein on ABC’s “Powerhouse Politics” podcast Wednesday.

"Lucky," which was released Tuesday, is a deep dive into the inner workings of Biden's campaign from Allen, a senior political reporter for NBC News Digital, and senior correspondent for The Hill Amie Parnes. Parnes and Allen previously wrote the New York Times bestseller "Shattered," about Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign.

The book shares other new details, including that Obama didn't call his former vice president until four days after the election, when news networks had projected Biden the winner.

"I think the former president was sitting on the sidelines and sort of watching and going 'oh God, I hope this is not deja vu from 2016' and so I think that he was watching and kind of letting the process play out," Parnes said on "Powerhouse Politics" about that moment.

Former President Barack Obama joins Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden at a campaign event in Flint, Michigan, Oct. 31, 2020.
Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

"We found it a little bit surprising as well when we were doing reporting," she added. "I think people around him were a little bit surprised by it, but I think it sort of shows they try to portray a very cozy relationship. And I do think that without a doubt, that he loves his former vice president. It just remains to be seen if he thought that he was the best candidate. I think he maybe identified with other candidacies more."

Allen said the book shows that Obama and Biden's relationship is not exactly what people think it is.

"A lot of the reporting in the past has been about them being very close," he said. "And, you know, they describe themselves as having a mentor-mentee relationship, but it does not appear that they agree on who the mentor is. And I think that causes a lot of friction between the two of them and has over the course of, you know, basically 12 years now."

The book also reports from behind the scenes on Obama's decision to wait until the end of the primary to make an endorsement. Biden often said that he asked the former president to not endorse him.

"I think Obama folks, people around him were sort of scratching their heads every time Biden said 'I asked him not to endorse me'," Parnes said. "And that was one of the most revealing details that we learned when we talked to people very close to him. These are people that talk to him regularly and basically said they never had that conversation. We don't know where that came from. "

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