President Obama has officially endorsed Hillary Clinton, a strong move towards party unity just hours after his meeting with Bernie Sanders.
Obama put his weight behind his one-time primary rival and secretary of state in a video released Thursday afternoon by Clinton’s campaign.
“I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office. She’s got the courage, the compassion and the heart to get the job done,” Obama says in the video, before using her campaign’s slogan: “I’m with her.”
The swift endorsement is a strong signal that the Democratic Party must unite behind Clinton in order to stop Donald Trump — and a not-so-subtle message to Sanders that it’s time to pack things in and avoid any rancor.
The President used the video to praise Clinton for being willing to join his cabinet after their hard-fought 2008 primary.
“I have seen her judgment, I have seen her toughness, I have seen her commitment to our values up close,” he said. “I’m with her. I’m fired up and I cannot wait to get out there and campaign with Hillary.”
The president also made a public push to woo Bernie Sanders voters, saying he ran “an incredible campaign,” thanking him for highlighting income inequality on the campaign trail and saying the message “will help us win in November” and make the party and country stronger.
“Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders may have been rivals during this primary but they’re both patriots who love this country and they share a vision for the America we all believe in: An America that’s hopeful, and America that’s big-hearted, an America that’s big-hearted, an America that’s strong and fair and gives every child the same chance that we’ve had,” he said.
Obama plans to make his first public campaign stop with Clinton in Wisconsin next week. The president has signaled strongly in recent weeks how ready he is to get more active on the campaign trail.
Clinton announced the Obama endorsement through her campaign, saying she was “honored” for the support, before tweeting his campaign slogan back at him: “I’m fired up and ready to go!”
Sanders has continued to refuse to bow out and admit he’s lost the race. But in the past two days his rhetoric has shifted dramatically, a sign that he’s turning down the heat on Clinton and tacitly acknowledging that he won’t be the nominee while continuing to pressure Clinton and the Democratic Party to the left.
Sanders focused on the party platform rather than winning the nomination in a brief statement to reporters following his White House meeting with Obama Thursday, saying that Trump would be a “disaster” and that he looks forward to meeting with Clinton “in the near future to see how we can work together.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday afternoon that Obama’s endorsement video was recorded on Tuesday, after the Associated Press had called the race but before the final set of state primaries had concluded. He described Obama’s meeting with Sanders was a “friendly conversation that was focused on the future.” He demurred when asked again who Obama had cast his own primary ballot for months ago, but said he was “not aware that the president ever changed his mind over the course of the primary” on who he’d prefer to see succeed him in the White House.
Earnest made clear that Obama hadn’t surprised Sanders with the endorsement before reiterating that in the White House’s view, the Vermont senator “has more than earned the right to make his own decision on his own timeframe about the future of his campaign,” refusing to offer any public pressure for Sanders to bow out and endorse Clinton.
One person not impressed with the endorsement was the presumptive Republican nominee.
“Obama just endorsed Crooked Hillary,” Trump tweeted. “He wants four more years of Obama-but nobody else does!”
Clinton’s Twitter response was succinct: “Delete your account.”
That tweet made a huge splash, quickly becoming her most retweeted of the campaign.