Joe Biden Reveals He Asked Barack Obama 'Not to Endorse Him' as Former President Breaks Primary Silence

Karen Mizoguchi

Joe Biden has told his former boss not to endorse him.

Hours after Biden, 76, announced his 2020 presidential campaign, the former vice president told reporters that he purposely urged Barack Obama to hold off on declaring his approval.

“I asked President Obama not to endorse,” Biden told reporters on Thursday. “Whoever wins this nomination should win it on their own merits.”

Meanwhile, Obama offered kind words of encouragement to the man he often referred to as his “brother.”

The White House Official Photographer

“President Obama has long said that selecting Joe Biden as his running mate in 2008 was one of the best decisions he ever made,” Obama spokeswoman Katie Hill said in a statement to PEOPLE on Thursday.

“He relied on the Vice President’s knowledge, insight, and judgment throughout both campaigns and the entire presidency. The two forged a special bond over the last 10 years and remain close today,” the statement concluded.

A source familiar with Obama’s thinking also told PEOPLE it is “unlikely that he will throw his support behind a specific candidate this early in the primary process – preferring instead to let the candidates make their cases directly to the voters,” adding that “President Obama is excited by the extraordinary and diverse talent exhibited in the growing lineup of Democratic primary candidates. He believes that a robust primary in 2007 and 2008 not only made him a better general election candidate, but a better president, too.”

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Obama, who awarded Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2017, has yet to endorse a candidate.

The longtime senator from Delaware-turned-presidential candidate-turned-running mate and vice president announced his campaign early Thursday morning with a video message.

“The core values of this nation… our standing in the world… our very democracy…everything that has made America — America — is at stake,” the text alongside the video said. “That’s why today I’m announcing my candidacy for President of the United States.”

RELATED: Joe Biden Announces He Is Running for President Against Donald Trump After Skipping 2016 Race

J. Scott Applewhite/Getty

Biden served as Obama‘s right-hand man for two terms and enters a crowded field of Democratic candidates as the immediate frontrunner in name recognition and most polling, even if his age and historically more moderate voting record put him at odds with the party’s progressive wing.

In the months leading up to his announcement, Biden has repeatedly made the argument he is the most qualified challenger against Donald Trump.

“I’ll be as straight with you as I can. I think I’m the most qualified person in the country to be president,” Biden told a cheering December crowd at the University of Montana. “The issues that we face as a country today are the issues that have been in my wheelhouse, that I’ve worked on my whole life.”