WASHINGTON — Former President Barack Obama endorsed presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in a video message on Tuesday.
“Choosing Joe to be my vice president was one of the best decisions I ever made, and he became a close friend,” said Obama. “And I believe Joe has all the qualities we need in a president right now.”
Obama’s endorsement came one day after Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont progressive, announced he was backing Biden for the presidency. Sanders, who dropped out of the race last week, praised Biden on a video call Monday.
“We need you in the White House. I will do all that I can to see that that happens, Joe,” Sanders said in a live-streamed conversation between the two erstwhile rivals.
In his endorsement, Obama said Biden — who spent eight years as his vice president — was “an incredible partner when I needed one the most.” He also cited Biden’s management of the 2009 H1N1 swine flu outbreak and his work after the 2008 recession as reasons to back the former vice president, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, which has brought most of the nation to a standstill.
“Joe has the character and the experience to guide us through one of our darkest times and heal us through a long recovery,” said Obama.
“And I know he’ll surround himself with good people — experts, scientists, military officials who actually know how to run the government and care about doing a good job running the government, and know how to work with our allies, and who will always put the American people’s interests above their own.”
More than 23,000 Americans had died of the coronavirus disease as of Tuesday afternoon, and the U.S. has surpassed every other nation in confirmed cases. The pandemic and efforts to mitigate it have overshadowed what is typically a bustling campaign season, relegating staff, media and the candidates themselves to their homes.
Due to the pandemic, Democrats have pushed back their national convention from July to August. What that convention will look like in an era of social distancing is yet to be determined.
Biden, who has been campaigning remotely from his home state of Delaware, has frequently criticized President Trump’s handling of the outbreak.
“Trump keeps saying that he’s a wartime president. Well, start to act like one,” Biden said at the end of March.
Obama’s decision to abstain from endorsing Biden while the primary campaign was in full swing frustrated some of the former vice president’s staffers. Obama, however, reportedly said privately that he would intervene if Sanders, a democratic socialist, looked like he would win the nomination.
But in his endorsement of Biden, Obama lauded Sanders as an “American original” who is “critical in moving America in a direction of progress and hope.”
While Obama stayed on the sidelines during the lengthy Democratic primary, Biden was boosted late in the race by endorsements from other party leaders, most notably South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn. That endorsement, which came just days before the crucial South Carolina primary, is credited with resurrecting Biden’s moribund campaign.
After a landslide win in the Palmetto State, Biden went on to secure the endorsements of many of his competitors, such as former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Of the top contenders for the Democratic nomination, only Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has so far avoided throwing her support behind Biden.
Obama is perhaps the most famous and popular Democrat in the country. By the time he left office in 2017, 59 percent of Americans said they approved of the job he was doing as president, according to Gallup.
Democrats hope Obama’s endorsement will help unify the party ahead of what looks to be a bruising contest with Trump.
“So join us. Join Joe,” said Obama. “Keep taking care of yourself, and your families, and each other. Keep believing in the possibilities of a better world. And I will see you on the campaign trail as soon as I can.”
Most polls currently give Biden a narrow edge against the president in a head-to-head contest. A Monmouth poll released last week had Biden leading Trump 48 to 44 percent. Meanwhile, a recent Fox News poll had the two tied at 42 percent.
Click here for the latest coronavirus news and updates. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please refer to the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.