Former US president Barack Obama endorsed Joe Biden in a video yesterday, giving the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee a boost from the party's biggest fundraiser and one of its most popular figures.
"I believe Joe has all the qualities we need in a president right now," Mr Obama said in a nearly 12-minute video, touting him as a "close friend" and lauding him for his perseverance and compassion.
Mr Obama and Mr Biden are close friends from their two terms in the White House, when Mr Biden served as vice president. Mr Biden leaned heavily on his affiliation with the former president throughout the Democratic primary, framing his pitch as an extension of Mr Obama's presidency. In recent weeks, he has told donors he has been in touch with Mr Obama about his vice-presidential pick.
The endorsement marks Mr Obama's return to presidential politics more than three years after leaving the White House. He rarely talks directly about his successor, Donald Trump, and avoided intervening in the Democratic primary.
But Mr Obama has been following the Democratic race closely from the sidelines and is eager to take a more active public role in the campaign. He is expected to headline fundraisers for Mr Biden and public events in key swing states, if those events can still be held given social-distancing guidelines.
The endorsement comes a day after Bernie Sanders also backed Mr Biden. The former vice president now has the support of all of his former Democratic primary rivals except for Elizabeth Warren. The Massachusetts senator is expected to formally throw her support behind Mr Biden soon, according to a person familiar with her plans.
Two other prominent Democrats who have yet to formally endorse Mr Biden are former president Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, the party's 2016 nominee. Hillary Clinton has been in regular touch with Mr Biden, including several times since Mr Sanders dropped out of the race, according to an aide.
Mr Obama has been an obvious shadow throughout the 2020 Democratic primary. Mr Biden coined the "Obama-Biden administration" moniker when he talked about various accomplishments.
But he also tried to insist he was running as his own man, telling anyone who asked that he urged Mr Obama not to endorse him out of the gate or even in the thick of the primary.
Mr Obama's tenure became a sort of punchbag for some hopefuls in a primary fight that early on was defined by a debate over the need for generational and systemic change versus a return to normalcy after the Trump era.
By the time voting began, Pete Buttigieg was almost explicitly comparing his youthful bid to Mr Obama's 2008 campaign and the progressives were framing their healthcare proposals as a way to build on Mr Obama's legacy. Mike Bloomberg, meanwhile, featured Mr Obama in his ubiquitous advertising effort, much to Mr Biden's chagrin. "You'd think Mike was Barack's vice president," Mr Biden once quipped to donors.
For his part, Mr Biden leaned even more heavily into Mr Obama as primary voting began. Aiming at Mr Sanders, the self-described "democratic socialist", and billionaire Mr Bloomberg, who had been elected New York City mayor as a Republican, Mr Biden said in an interview on February 21 that "they're not bad folks - they're just not Democrats".
Campaigning before increasingly diverse audiences in Nevada and South Carolina, Mr Biden ramped up his recollections of when Mr Obama tapped him for the ticket in 2008. He recalled Inauguration Day, 2009, waiting for the train in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, "for a black man to pick me up… for the two of us to be sworn in as president and vice president of the United States".
Mr Biden said he had thought of that day as a national victory over institutional racism. Now, in the Trump era, he calls that conclusion a mistake. "I thought we could defeat hate", he said, but, "it never goes away".
On February 29, Mr Biden took the stage in South Carolina to celebrate a near 30-point victory that would propel him past Mr Sanders and everyone. He dusted off a line he had used many times before: "I'm a proud Obama- Biden Democrat."
Mr Obama was watching. His sideline approach nearing its end, he called his former vice president that night to congratulate him on his victory.