Speculation that retiring US Secretary of state Hillary Clinton may run for the presidency in 2016 has intensified in Washington after President Obama hinted he may endorse her candidacy to succeed him.
Mr Obama, in bidding farewell to one of his closest advisers, said their shared vision for America's role in the world persuaded his one-time rival – and potential successor – to be his top diplomat while he dealt with the shattered economy at home.
The warmth of his glowing tributes has enhanced the feeling that Mr Obama may prefer her to follow him in the White House after the 2016 elections.
Mrs Clinton is leaving Mr Obama's Cabinet soon, and conjecture about the former first lady and senator has only grown after an exchange last week on Capitol Hill in which she was questioned about last year's attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the ambassador to Libya.
Both Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton batted away questions about future campaigns, but the joint interview – the president's first with anyone other than his wife – was only likely to increase the fascination with Mrs Clinton's future.
"The president and I care deeply about what's going to happen for our country in the future," Mrs Clinton said. "And I don't think, you know, either he or I can make predictions about what's going to happen tomorrow or the next year," she added, giving a diplomatic 'non-denial denial' to the question of whether she would run.
Aides to Mrs Clinton say she has not decided whether to run in 2016, despite the urging of many Democrats and the tempting goal of becoming the first female US president.
Mr Obama, who suggested the joint interview as Mrs Clinton prepared her exit from the State Department, lavished praise on his rival for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. He called her a friend and an extraordinary talent and praised "her discipline, her stamina, her thoughtfulness, her ability to project".
It teetered on an endorsement of a 2016 presidential bid that is still an open question. Democratic officials suggest Clinton would be an early favourite if she decided to mount another campaign.
Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton laughed when asked about the political future.
"You guys in the press are incorrigible," he said. "I was literally inaugurated four days ago. And you're talking about elections four years from now."
The possibility of a presidential campaign for the also-popular Vice President Joe Biden did not come up during the interview, taped Friday at the White House. Mr Obama described why he insisted Mrs Clinton become his secretary of state.
"She also was already a world figure," Obama said. "To have somebody who could serve as that effective ambassador in her own right without having to earn her stripes, so to speak, on the international stage, I thought, would be hugely important."