WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama formally endorsed fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton for president on Thursday, describing himself as eager to get out and campaign for her, days after she gained the delegates needed to secure the party’s White House nomination.
Obama’s comments came soon after his meeting with Senator Bernie Sanders in Washington on Thursday.
“I don’t think there has ever been someone so qualified to hold this office,” Obama said in a video released by the Clinton campaign.
“I’m with her, I’m fired up and I cannot wait to get out there and campaign with Hillary.” Obama and Clinton were rivals during the 2008 Democratic primary that Obama won. Clinton went on to serve as Obama’s secretary of state during his first term in office.
Facing pressure to end his presidential campaign and support Clinton, Sanders on Thursday vowed to fight Donald Trump to prevent a “disaster” presidency.
Talking to reporters after meeting with Obama, Sanders said he looked forward to meeting Clinton in the near future to talk about “how to defeat Donald Trump”, the presumptive Republican candidate, though he did not immediately drop out of the White House race.
Trump, he said, “would be a disaster as president of the United States”.
Despite the pressure from Democrats to end his campaign, Sanders said he would compete in the Washington primary next Tuesday. Despite Clinton’s commanding victories in California and New Jersey in presidential contests, Sanders vowed to take his campaign issues to the Democratic national convention in July, when the party’s nominee is formally chosen.
Sanders further said he would continue doing everything he can to oppose a drift towards what he described as an “oligarchic form of society”.
He travelled to Washington for talks with party leaders after a hard-fought primary race in which Clinton, the former secretary of state, won enough delegates to secure the Democratic nomination this week and become the first woman to lead a major party as its presidential nominee.
The Sanders campaign, which posed an unexpectedly strong challenge to a better-known and better-funded Democrat, has decried what it called Clinton’s anointment by the party establishment and the media.
Obama said in an NBC interview pre-taped on Wednesday that he hoped divisions between Democrats would start to heal in coming weeks now that Clinton has clinched the party’s nomination for the November 8 presidential election.
“It was a healthy thing for the Democratic Party to have a contested primary,” Obama said at a fund-raiser in New York City later on Wednesday.
Senior Democrats are seeking a delicate balance between the need to unite behind Clinton in the looming battle against Trump and not alienating Sanders and his supporters.