In perhaps the least shocking development of the 2016 presidential campaign, Barack Obama has formally endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. The backing, proclaimed in a video on Clinton’s site, comes shortly after Obama met with Senator Bernie Sanders at the White House on Thursday. Obama said:
For more than a year now across thousands of miles and all 50 states, tens of millions of Americans have made their voices heard. Today I just want to add mine. I want to congratulate Hillary Clinton on making history as the presumptive Democratic nominee for president of the United States. Look, I know how hard this job can be. That’s why I know Hillary will be so good at it.
The president promised to hit the trail soon to campaign for Clinton.
In the video, Obama positions himself as a peacemaker between the Sanders and Clinton factions in the party. He rejects the idea that the primaries have divided the Democratic Party, citing how he and Clinton worked together in 2008. And he heaped praise on Sanders, who, he said, “has run an incredible campaign”:
I had a great meeting with him this week and I thanked him for shining a spotlight on issues like economic inequality and the outsize of money in our politics, and bringing young people into the process. Embracing that message is going to help us win in November. More importantly, it will make the Democratic Party strong, and it will make the country stronger.
The meeting between the two men wasn’t quite a come-to-Jesus moment. Sanders emerged from that meeting sounding a conciliatory note but not quite ready to go, as my colleague Clare Foran reported. In remarks outside the White House, Sanders vowed to compete in Tuesday’s District of Columbia primary, yet he also acknowledged the clear reality and promised to collaborate with Clinton. “I look forward to meeting with her in the near future to see how we can work together to defeat Donald Trump and create a government, which represents all of us and not just the one percent,” he said.
Obama for his part worked to emphasize the agreements between Sanders and Clinton, saying that they share a vision for an America that is hopeful, “big-hearted,” and fair.
“Those are the values the unite us as Democrats,” he said—and then, taking the chance to swipe at Donald Trump, “Those are the values that make America great.”
Obama had long been expected to back Clinton, but he stayed out of the primary to avoid acrimony, as sitting presidents have done before. (Ronald Reagan waited until May 1988 to back his vice president, George H.W. Bush.) Sanders may well hang around until Tuesday, but Obama’s intervention signals the start of a major push to unify the party. Aides have told reporters that the president is eager to get out on the trail—not just to back Clinton, but to start getting his licks in on Trump.