President Barack Obama formally endorsed Hillary Clinton’s bid for the White House on Thursday, praising his former secretary of state’s experience and grit, and urging Democrats to unite behind her in the fight against Republicans in the fall.
President Obama formally endorsed Hillary Clinton via video Thursday, less than two hours after meeting with second-place primary finisher Bernie Sanders.
The Clinton campaign released the video in which the president says, “I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office.” The president said Clinton is “making history” as the first female presidential nominee of a major party, adding “I’m with her.”
The video — filmed on Tuesday — surfaced after Sanders capped his Oval Office meeting with Obama by saying he plans to take his issues to the Democratic convention next month, though he will also speak soon with Clinton about the best way to defeat Republican Donald Trump in the fall election.
“I look forward to meeting with her in the near future,” Sanders told reporters at the White House.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama has now spoken with Sanders three times in the last week, and “I think it’s fair to say Sen. Sanders was not surprised at all by today’s announcement” of the Clinton endorsement.
Obama, who aides say has been itching to hit the campaign trail, says in the video that, “I’m with her, I am fired up, and I cannot wait to get out there to campaign for Hillary.”
The president and Clinton have a joint appearance on Wednesday in Green Bay, Wis.
Praising Clinton’s “courage” and “compassion,” Obama says: “Look, I know how hard this job can be — that’s why I know Hillary will be so good at it.”
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, reacted to the news by tweeting: “Obama just endorsed Crooked Hillary. He wants four more years of Obama — but nobody else does!”
After speaking with Obama for about an hour, Sanders did not indicate that he intended to withdraw from the race anytime soon and plans to contest Tuesday’s Democratic primary in Washington, D.C., by promoting the idea of statehood for the district.
The Vermont senator also said he plans to maintain his movement in an effort to change a political system in which “a handful of billionaires exercise enormous power over our political, economic and media life.” He also cited campaign plans ranging from health care to anti-poverty programs.
“These are the issues that we will take to the Democratic national convention in Philadelphia at the end of July,” he said.
While not discussing his meeting with Obama, Sanders thanked the president and Vice President Biden for “the degree of the impartiality” they displayed during his primary battle with Clinton.
As he prepared to endorse Clinton as his successor, Obama sought to use his meeting with Sanders as a way to build Democratic unity.
“When you look at the issues, there’s a pretty broad consensus about what it means to be a Democrat and what our values are, and what we’re fighting for,” Obama told party donors in New York on Wednesday, previewing his sit-down with Sanders.
Thursday’s events came just days after Clinton claimed enough convention delegates to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination, putting increased pressure on Sanders to exit the race.
Obama’s endorsement also comes eight years after he and Clinton battled in a hotly contested Democratic primary campaign that ended with Clinton backing his White House bid.
Sanders also met Thursday with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and Vice President Biden before heading to a rally with supporters in Washington. Sanders didn’t speak to reporters as he left his meeting with Reid and headed to another with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who is expected to be the Democratic leader in the Senate when Reid retires.
Reid said that Sanders agreed to come to the Senate Democratic caucus meeting on Tuesday. Beyond that, he offered no details on Sanders’ next steps, while praising his “vitality” and saying the Vermont senator will be good for the Democratic Party.
“I feel I’m in a good place with Bernie,” Reid told reporters. “Bernie’s in a good place with my caucus. And I feel he’s in a good place with the country.”.
Clinton said she spoke by phone with Sanders on Wednesday and plans to work with him and his supporters to prepare for a fall campaign against Trump.
Citing the “extraordinary campaign” that Sanders has run this year, Clinton told NBC News that “I really appreciate all that he’s contributed to the Democratic Party and our country and the issues that we’re going to be focused on in the general election.”
Trump, meanwhile, is making an open appeal for Sanders voters, saying the Vermont senator was cheated during the Democratic race because so many “superdelegates” announced their support for Clinton.
In his remarks to Democratic donors in New York, Obama said he is not worried about the party coming together — his priority is preparing for the fall battle against Trump.
“I am concerned about us doing the hard nuts-and-bolts work of turning out people to vote,” Obama said, “particularly young people, particularly low-income people who oftentimes feel forgotten and are still stressed.”
Looking ahead to the fall campaign, Sanders said after the meeting with the president that his top priority is to defeat Trump, saying the New York businessman had made “bigotry and discrimination” the cornerstones of his campaign.
“I will work as hard as I can to make sure Donald Trump does not become president of the United States,” Sanders said.