WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said President Barack Obama has no plans to endorse a candidate in the Democratic primary for the 2016 presidential election.
"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," McDonough said in an appearance on NBC's Meet The Press on Sunday.
Despite the firm answer from the White House on the issue, Obama may have given signals as to where his support lies. In an op-ed for The New York Times last week discussing his executive actions in gun control, Obama said he plans to be a single-issue voter when it comes to gun control.
"I will not campaign for, vote for or support any candidate, even in my own party, who does not support common-sense gun reform," he wrote.
The stance signals stronger support for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has campaigned on similar gun-control stances in this election cycle. It also signals bad news for her rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who has been haunted by a 2005 vote in favor of immunity from prosecution for gun sellers.
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act passed the Senate and was later signed into law. Then-Senators Clinton and Obama voted against the bill, while Sanders voted for it. Sanders also voted against the Brady Bill five times, a bill that would have mandated background checks for gun purchases. He also voted for the "Charleston loophole" as Clinton has called it, an amendment that makes it easier to purchase a gun without a completed background check.
It has been one of the few issues that puts Sanders to the right of Clinton. Clinton has been quick to align herself with the president in recent days, even telling Ellen DeGeneres she was "so proud" of the president's executive actions.
Clinton has also not wasted an opportunity to attack the Vermont senator over it, as she did in an appearance on CBS's Face the Nation on Sunday.
"It's the only industry in our country where we have given that kind of carte blanche to do whatever you want to do with no fear of legal consequences," she said, speaking about the 2005 bill. "And he often says, well, look, I'm from Vermont and it's different. It's not like being in New York City."
Sanders has responded by defending his votes, but offering to take another look at immunity from prosecution for gun sellers. His campaign tweeted an image of a direct mailer from Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign that criticized Obama for cracking down on gun control.