Former President Barack Obama endorsed Joe Biden on Tuesday in a 12-minute video describing his close partnership with his former vice president and urging Americans opposed to President Donald Trump to join together in a “great awakening” against him.
“Choosing Joe to be my vice president was one of the best decisions I ever made, and he became a close friend. And I believe Joe has all the qualities we need in a president right now,” Obama said, speaking directly to the camera.
Much of Obama’s statement is focused on winning over left-leaning voters who may be cool to Biden’s candidacy, with praise of Bernie Sanders, who exited the race last week, and an allusion to Elizabeth Warren’s promise of “structural change.”
He cast the general election as a binary choice between Biden and Trump, making several veiled references to some of the differences between the two candidates’ approach to governing and their personal backgrounds.
“Elections matter,” he said. “Right now, we need Americans of goodwill to unite in a great awakening against a politics that too often has been characterized by corruption, carelessness, self-dealing, disinformation, ignorance, and just plain meanness. And to change that, we need Americans of all political stripes to get involved in our politics and our public life like never before.”
Obama’s endorsement was expected now, just as the general election against Trump begins. He’d long made clear that he would wait for Democratic voters to choose their nominee before getting involved in the race. Biden didn’t wait for the endorsement, however, to capitalize on their relationship. From his campaign launch a year ago onward, the legacy of his eight years in the White House with Obama was at the core of his case.
Obama’s announcement comes a day after Sanders, Biden’s final opponent for the nomination, endorsed him and urged Democrats, independents and “some Republicans” to unite around Biden to defeat Trump.
Obama’s endorsement means that he and former first lady Michelle Obama, the two most popular figures in the Democratic Party, can begin to campaign — and raise money — for Biden. While Biden’s campaign had hoped to hold massive rallies to roll out the support of the Obamas, it is settling for a digital rollout during virus-related social distancing.
Obama remained publicly neutral throughout the primary race, but he offered to share advice and speak privately with any Democratic candidate. Most candidates took him up on the offer. But as the race narrowed, Obama spoke more frequently with Biden, including congratulating him for his victory in South Carolina, and he spoke a number of times with Sanders as he was contemplating the end of his campaign.
The Trump campaign dismissed the big-name endorsement, saying Biden would “embarrass” his former boss.
“Barack Obama spent much of the last five years urging Joe Biden not to run for president out of fear that he would embarrass himself. Now that Biden is the only candidate left in the Democrat field, Obama has no other choice but to support him,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement.
Obama and Biden remain close friends, a bond that deepened when Biden was grieving over the death of his son Beau in 2015. Their partnership in the White House — in which Biden was given a broad portfolio — is also the model Biden has been contemplating as he begins the process of selecting his own running mate.