Former President Barack Obama endorsed his old running mate Joe Biden for president in a video message Tuesday.
“Choosing Joe to be my vice president was one of the best decisions I ever made, and he became a close friend,” Obama said in his address. “And I believe Joe has all the qualities we need in a president right now.”
The message was an in-depth endorsement from the former president, whom the country has not heard much from in the past year and who stayed on the sidelines in the middle of a competitive Democratic primary.
Not only did Obama offer his long-awaited endorsement, his video address was also a message to the nation reeling from the coronavirus outbreak and resulting economic crisis.
“Joe has the character and the experience to guide us through one of our darkest times and heal us through a long recovery,” Obama said. “Joe was there as we rebuilt from the Great Recession and rescued the American auto industry. He was the one asking what every policy would do for the middle class and everyone striving to get into the middle class.”
Obama’s endorsement came a day after former Biden presidential rival Sen. Bernie Sanders offered his own endorsement during a video discussion with Biden. The two also discussed a plan to start a coalition between their respective wings of the party. They agreed to form joint working groups of their campaign staff to formulate policy on six key areas: climate change, criminal justice, the economy, education, health care, and immigration.
“Today, I am asking all Americans, I’m asking every Democrat, I’m asking every independent, I’m asking a lot of Republicans to come together in this campaign to support your candidacy,” Sanders said to Biden on Monday.
If Sanders’s endorsement represented the two ideological wings of the party coming together, Obama’s endorsement represents the start of Democratic party leaders coalescing around not just a candidate, but a presumptive nominee. In many ways, this is not surprising, given that Biden was seen as an establishment choice from the beginning, and that he served as Obama’s No. 2 for eight years.
Biden had already won the backing of a number of powerful congressional figures, like Minority Whip Dick Durbin and Rep. James Clyburn — whose backing was credited with helping the vice president win the South Carolina primary. He had received the backing of at least one influential party leader, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
But Obama’s endorsement was the biggest of them all. The former president was always expected to offer his endorsement; many assumed it was just a matter of time.
Throughout the primary, Biden often highlighted his close relationship with Obama — particularly their professional relationship, built during the eight years they were president and vice president. Now that Biden is the presumptive nominee, it remains to be seen how much Obama will campaign on his behalf over the next seven months.
But a full-throated endorsement from the popular former president is an important first step.