WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama formally endorsed Hillary Clinton to become his successor Thursday in a video in which he praised her qualifications, determination and compassion as he sought to begin unifying Democrats for the political battle ahead with Republicans.
Obama announced his support for Clinton following an Oval Office meeting with her rival Bernie Sanders, who said afterward he’ll still compete in the final primary next Tuesday. But Sanders also promised to work to defeat presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Obama’s action prompted Clinton endorsements by Vice President Joe Biden, former Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), as Democratic leaders nudged Sanders to quit even though he hasn’t accepted Clinton’s declaration Tuesday that she won the nomination.
And it led Trump to tweet, “Obama just endorsed Crooked Hillary. He wants four more years of Obama — but nobody else does!” Clinton tweeted back to Trump: “Delete your account.”
Clinton aides said in an email she will begin campaigning in earnest next week in Ohio and Pennsylvania against Trump, and that next Wednesday Obama will make a joint appearance with her in Green Bay, Wis.
In the video, Obama praised the Democrat he defeated for the Democratic nomination eight years ago, congratulating her for making history as the first woman to lead a major party ticket and noting her character for agreeing after their rivalry to be his secretary of state.
“Look, I know how hard this job can be. That’s why I know Hillary will be so good at it. In fact I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office,” Obama said in the video. “I cannot wait to get out there and campaign for Hillary.”
Obama urged the voters who had twice put him in White House to support Clinton. “So I want those who have been with me from the beginning of this incredible journey to be the first to know that I’m with her,” he said.
After meeting with Obama for more than an hour, Sanders appeared with his wife Jane outside the West Wing. He told reporters he would continue to campaign for Tuesday’s primary in Washington, D.C., telling residents he’ll fight for statehood for the city.
Sanders also said he would push for his issues — reducing the influence of billionaires in politics and society, providing work through infrastructure improvements and increasing Social Security benefits for the elderly and disabled veterans — at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia from July 25-28.
“It is unbelievable to me, and I say this in all sincerity, that we would have a candidate for president who in the year 2016 would make bigotry and discrimination the cornerstone of his campaign,” Sanders said, arguing that Trump would be a “disaster” as president.
“Needless to say I am going to do everything in my power, and I will work hard as I can, to make sure Donald Trump does not become president of the United States,” said Sanders, who said he spoke with Clinton after Tuesday’s primaries.
“I look forward to meeting with her in the near future to see how we can work together to defeat Donald Trump and to create a government that represents all of us and not just the one percent,” Sanders said.
Sanders also met on Capitol Hill with Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the current Democratic Senate leader, and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is in line to succeed Reid in that post next year. Sanders also met with Biden at his residence.
After their meeting, Reid said he commiserated with Sanders over his loss to Clinton.
“I’m confident he will be a good campaigner for Democratic senators and for the Democratic nominee,” Reid said.
At an hourlong rally Thursday evening near Washington’s Robert F. Kennedy stadium, Sanders did not mention Obama’s endorsement of Clinton, urging the crowd of hundreds of supporters to vote for him Tuesday.
“It would be extraordinary if the people of Washington, our nation’s capital, stood up and told the world that they are ready to lead this country into a political revolution,” he said.