WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama on Thursday endorsed his former top diplomat Hillary Clinton in the campaign to succeed him, throwing his full weight into the 2016 White House race with a video message declaring: "I'm with her."
Obama's endorsement comes after a hard fought Democratic primary season, in which Clinton struggled against surprisingly tough leftist rival Bernie Sanders until she finally clinched the nomination just days ago.
"Tens of millions of Americans made their voices heard. Today I just want to add mine," Obama said in the video.
"I don't think there's ever been someone so qualified to hold this office."
"I have seen her judgment. I've seen her toughness. I've seen her commitment to our values up close," Obama said of Clinton.
The endorsement was long expected but is nonetheless a shot in the arm to the Clinton campaign and could end concerns about party unity after a bitter contest.
The president earlier hosted Sanders in the Oval Office in a bid to heal those wounds.
Obama's backing will give Clinton a potent surrogate on the campaign trail. After nearly eight years in the White House, Obama is still one of the country's most popular politicians.
His approval ratings among black, Hispanic, young and liberal voters are stratospheric.
Clinton welcomed the vote of confidence: "Honored to have you with me, @POTUS I'm fired up and ready to go!" she tweeted, echoing one of Obama's own campaign rallying cries from 2008.
History of her own
In that election Obama bested Clinton to become the first black president.
They later made peace, as Clinton became Obama's first secretary of state.
Now Clinton is trying to make history of her own by becoming the first female president.
Standing in her way is bombastic businessman Donald Trump, who shocked the world by becoming the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
Clinton's campaign announced that a first joint campaign event with Obama would take place in Green Bay, Wisconsin on Wednesday, June 15.
After meeting with Obama Thursday, Sanders avoided bowing out of the race, but said he would meet soon with Clinton to unite the Democratic Party as it takes on Trump.
Obama was looking to play peace broker, coaxing Sanders to recognize Clinton as the party's presidential nominee.
The meeting itself was a very public show of respect for Sanders' insurgent campaign.
The two men strode along the West Wing colonnade, both laughing at one point, with the president placing his hand on Sanders' back as he opened the door to the Oval Office.
"I thought that Bernie Sanders brought enormous energy and new ideas," Obama said Wednesday. "I thought it made Hillary a better candidate."