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Obama Endorses Clinton — and Nudges Sanders Toward the Exit

The president backs his former secretary of state, almost eight years to the day she dropped out and did the same for him.

GettyImages-133417450
GettyImages-133417450

President Barack Obama formally gave his backing to presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton Thursday, a move clearly designed to soothe the divides within the party after a hard-fought primary and pave the way for her to train all of her fire on presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

The videotaped announcement came just a few hours after Obama met with Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s lone challenger, though it was filmed Tuesday. The president’s endorsement arrives after Clinton clinched the Democratic nomination following a string of victories this week, including in delegate-rich California. It also comes eight years and two days after Clinton did the same for him.

The president made his support known in a YouTube video posted by Clinton’s camp Thursday afternoon that immediately flooded the internet.

President Barack Obama formally gave his backing to presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton Thursday, a move clearly designed to soothe the divides within the party after a hard-fought primary and pave the way for her to train all of her fire on presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

The videotaped announcement came just a few hours after Obama met with Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s lone challenger, though it was filmed Tuesday. The president’s endorsement arrives after Clinton clinched the Democratic nomination following a string of victories this week, including in delegate-rich California. It also comes eight years and two days after Clinton did the same for him.

The president made his support known in a YouTube video posted by Clinton’s camp Thursday afternoon that immediately flooded the internet.

“I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office,” Obama said, urging Democrats to unite behind Clinton.

Obama had reportedly been eager to get out on the trail and stump for Clinton, after maintaining neutrality between his former opponent in the 2008 election and the senator who defied expectations in forcing the former secretary of state to fight until an increasingly bitter end.

But he wasted no time on Thursday, with the Clinton campaign announcing shortly after the president met with Sanders that Obama’s first appearance with the presumptive Democratic nominee would come Wednesday, June 15, in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

That will mark a stark break with recent presidential campaigns, where candidates in recent decades have shied away from having their predecessors hit the trail for them. President George W. Bush, mired in record-low approval ratings, did not actively campaign for John McCain when the Arizona senator ran against Obama in 2008. In 2000, then-Vice President Al Gore chose not to have President Bill Clinton campaign for him, a decision some observers believe may have contributed to his defeat.

It’s not clear when or how Sanders will bow out of the race and give in to the entreaties from Obama and other top Democrats to unite the party behind Clinton.

But Obama’s endorsement on Thursday subtly answered some of the criticisms that both Sanders and Trump have leveled at Clinton in the course of the campaign, including questioning her “judgment” on foreign policy. Obama himself used a similar tactic in his primary against Clinton in the 2008 election.

“She’s got the courage, the compassion, and the heart to get the job done.… I have seen her judgment. I’ve seen her toughness. I’ve seen her commitment to our values up close,” Obama said Thursday.

After a roughly hourlong meeting at the White House with Obama earlier Thursday, the Vermont senator vowed to fight on at least until the last primary in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, June 14.

Sanders has insisted every Democratic voter should be able to cast his or her ballot, and he pledged to continue fighting for the issues that have motivated his upstart campaign and drawn crowds of thousands of people across the country. But he also pledged to do “everything in [his] power” to defeat Trump — including teaming up with his Democratic rival. “I look forward to meeting with her in the near future to see how we can work together to defeat Donald Trump,” he said.

He thanked Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for keeping their pledge ahead of the primary to “not put their thumbs on the scale.”

Obama’s public backing of Clinton comes ahead of an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Thursday night. According to leaked transcripts of the interview taped Wednesday, when asked about Trump, the president said he was concerned about the future of the country because of the tumult caused by the Republican presumptive nominee, who has alarmed even members of his own party with recent comments attacking the ethnic heritage of a federal judge that House Speaker Paul Ryan called the “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

Obama said Democrats “want the Republican nominee to be somebody who could do the job if they win. And you want folks who understand the issues.”

“So I am actually not enjoying, and I haven’t been enjoying over the last seven years, watching some of the things that have happened in the Republican Party,” he continued. “What’s happened in that party, culminating in this current nomination, I think is not actually good for the country as a whole. It’s not something Democrats should wish for.”

When asked about Clinton’s contributions to the president’s foreign policy, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Clinton is “an important architect of the kinds of foreign policy and strategic decisions that President Obama [has] had to make over the course of his presidency.”

Trump responded almost immediately, saying in a tweet that voters don’t want four more years of Obama.

Photo credit: SONNY TUMBELAKA/Getty Images

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