Former President Barack Obama endorsed Joe Biden, his two-term vice president, on Tuesday morning in the race for the White House.
"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 in a video posted to Twitter.
While Obama's lengthy statement never addressed President Donald Trump by name, the remarks centered around the need for strong, principled leadership in the White House – especially in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Obama praised Biden for his efforts during the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, helping "to prevent the Ebola epidemic from becoming the type of pandemic we're seeing now."
"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.
"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."
Biden said in a tweet that Obama's endorsement "means the world to Jill and me. We're going to build on the progress we made together, and there's no one I'd rather have standing by my side."
"There is no better partner in the battle for the soul of this nation, and no one I'd rather have standing by my side," Biden said in a statement later Tuesday. "We need to restore the qualities of presidential leadership President Obama provided — and that is what I intend to do."
The endorsement came only after Biden emerged as the last candidate left standing in the Democratic primary to take on Trump in November. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist from Vermont and Biden's final opponent, dropped out last week and endorsed his former rival on Monday.
In his speech, Obama extended an olive branch to Sanders.
"Bernie's an American original – a man who has devoted his life to giving voice to working people's hopes, dreams, and frustrations," Obama said. "He and I haven't always agreed on everything, but we've always shared a conviction that we have to make America a fairer, more just, more equitable society."
Obama's decision to steer largely clear of the primary fight raised eyebrows among some political watchers, who questioned why the 44th president did not immediately offer his endorsement when Biden launched his campaign.
Biden said at that time that he asked Obama "not to endorse" him.
"Whoever wins this nomination should win it on their own merit," the former vice president said.
Biden was considered the clear frontrunner. But his momentum slowed as the competitive nominating contest wore on, and he fell well behind Sanders in the polls following the first few primary elections.
A crucial endorsement in February from Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn, the influential House majority whip, marked a major shift back to the top of the field for Biden, who won the South Carolina primary with resounding support from the state's highly diverse electorate.
The Trump campaign mocked Obama's endorsement.
"Now that Biden is the only candidate left in the Democrat field, Obama has no other choice but to support him. Even Bernie Sanders beat him to it," campaign boss Brad Parscale said in a statement.
In the 2016 election, Obama did not endorse Hillary Clinton – his former secretary of State – until June, when she had secured enough delegates to become the presumptive Democratic nominee. Clinton lost to Republican nominee Trump in November 2016.
But Obama's popularity has grown since leaving the White House – a fact evident in polls and in the rhetoric of many former Democratic presidential candidates, who regularly praised Obama's achievements in office.
In his endorsement, the former president advocated for a progressive approach to the 2020 election
"If I were running today, I wouldn't run the same race or have the same platform as I did in 2008. The world is different; there's too much unfinished business for us to just look backwards. We have to look to the future," Obama said.
"Bernie understands that. And Joe understands that. It's one of the reasons that Joe already has what is the most progressive platform of any major party nominee in history," Obama said. "Because even before the pandemic turned the world upside down, it was already clear that we needed real structural change."
Obama said that the Affordable Care Act, the signature legislative achievement of his presidency, should be expanded to provide a public and expand Medicare. He also said that America should return to the Paris climate agreement, from which Trump withdrew the U.S.
"Our country's future hangs on this election. And it won't be easy," Obama said. "The other side has a massive war chest. The other side has a propaganda network with little regard for the truth."
Since Trump's inauguration in January 2017, Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama have maintained a consistent, and tightly controlled, public presence.
Obama's official Twitter account remains wildly popular, boasting more than 30 million more followers than Trump's handle despite the current president's more frequent use of the platform.
The Obamas have branched out into other popular media, as well. In May 2018, they signed a multiyear Netflix deal with the stated goal of promoting "greater empathy and understanding between peoples."
"American Factory," the first film produced by Barack and Michelle's Higher Ground Productions, won an Oscar for best documentary.