Former President Barack Obama gently waded back into international politics on Thursday, talking by phone with French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron.
Macron is the center-right candidate, and the leading contender to stop far-right Marine Le Pen from winning in either Sunday’s first round or the subsequent run-off.
Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis said "an endorsement was not the purpose of the call, as President Obama is not making any formal endorsement."
A source familiar said that Macron had sought the call. He’s hoping to preserve France’s pro-European Union bent, in line with Obama’s vision of global politics — and opposed to President Donald Trump’s. Le Pen had meetings in Trump Tower during the transition and has since traveled to Moscow to meet with Vladimir Putin.
"President Obama appreciated the opportunity to hear from Mr. Macron about his campaign and the important upcoming presidential election in France, a country that President Obama remains deeply committed to as a close ally of the United States, and as a leader on behalf of liberal values in Europe and around the world," Lewis said.
Obama remains popular in Europe, but he’s yet to demonstrate any transferability of that into electoral wins, including when he came out heavily against Brexit in advance of last year’s vote, at the urging of then-Prime Minister David Cameron. Last November, traveling in Berlin the week after Trump won, Obama was asked if he’d back Chancellor Angela Merkel in her own reelection this fall, and he said he’d support her — but wasn’t sure if it would help.
But he’s scheduled to be back in Germany for another officially non-political event with Merkel at the end of May.