By Roberta Rampton
President Barack Obama said on Wednesday he hoped that divisions between Democrats would start to heal in coming weeks, now that his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, has clinched the party’s nomination for the Nov. 8 presidential election.
“My hope is that over the next couple of weeks we’re able to pull things together,” Obama said in his first public remarks since primary election wins on Tuesday in California and elsewhere propelled Clinton to victory over rival Bernie Sanders after a hard-fought, months-long campaign.
“What happens during primaries is you get a little ouchy,” Obama told NBC late-night host Jimmy Fallon during a taping of “The Tonight Show” set to air on Thursday.
Sanders, who has not conceded the race, is set to meet with Obama at the White House on Thursday at 11:15 a.m. (1515 GMT).
Later, at a fundraiser in the Central Park West apartment of Kenneth Lerer, a venture capitalist and chairman of the BuzzFeed medial company, Obama said he was “not too worried” about “bruised feelings” left over from the primary.
“We just ended – sort of ended – our primary season,” Obama said, catching his mistake as the crowd of about 60 Democratic donors, who paid up to $33,400 to attend, laughed nervously.
“I am concerned about us doing the hard nuts-and-bolts work of turning out people to vote, particularly young people, particularly low-income people,” Obama said.
Asked whether Obama thought Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, should quickly end his campaign, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the senator had “more than earned the right to make his own decision about the course of his campaign.”
The party will officially vote on Clinton’s nomination at its convention in Philadelphia at the end of July.
Obama told Fallon that “it was a healthy thing for the Democratic Party to have a contested primary” and praised Sanders for the “enormous energy and new ideas” he brought to the campaign.
“He pushed the party and challenged them. I thought it made Hillary a better candidate,” Obama said.
The White House has said Obama, who is very popular among Democrats, will play a unifying role on the campaign trail.
“The main role I’m going to be playing in this process is to remind the American people that this is a serious job. This is not reality TV,” Obama told Fallon in a swipe at presumptive Republican nominee and real estate magnate Donald Trump, who starred in a reality television show.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Leslie Adler and Peter Cooney)
President Obama talks to Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon during a break in a taping of the show, to air Thursday night, at NBC’s Rockefeller Center studios in New York. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst