Boost for Biden as Barack Obama backs presidential bid

Former US president says Joe Biden has ‘all the qualities we need in a president right now’

Former US president Barack Obama has endorsed Joe Biden's presidential campaign, in a huge boost for Mr Biden as he seeks to become the Democratic party's candidate to take on Donald Trump in November's election.

Mr Obama, who had not publicly commented on the Democratic nomination process or race, made the announcement in a video posted to his social media accounts on Tuesday.

"I'm proud to endorse Joe Biden, " Mr Obama said. "Choosing Joe Biden to be my vice president was one of the best decisions I ever made.

He described Mr Biden as “an incredible partner when I needed him the most” and said he had “all the qualities we need in a president right now”.


He added that “through all his trials” Mr Biden had never forgotten “the values or the moral fibre that his parents passed on to him”.

Noting that the coronavirus pandemic had led to many examples of the “courage kindness and selflessness that we are going to need to get through one of the most difficult times in our history”, Mr Obama said this “spirit of looking out for one another... has to be reflected in our national government”.

"The kind of leadership that's guided by knowledge and experience, honesty and humility, empathy and grace. That kind of leadership doesn't just belong in our state capitols and mayor's offices. It belongs in the White House and that's why I am so proud to endorse Joe Biden for president of the United States, " he said.


Mr Obama’s endorsement is likely to be of major assistance to Mr Biden.

Polls show that the former president, the first African-American to hold the office, and his wife Michelle are hugely popular with Democratic voters and the American public at large, a position that has been cemented since the election of Donald Trump in 2016.

The development may also help fundraising efforts by the Biden team which is far behind Mr Trump in terms of election resources.

Mr Obama's endorsement came amid signs that he was becoming increasingly engaged in the Democratic contest in recent weeks. It is understood that Bernie Sanders spoke to the former president several times before making his decision to drop out of the race last week.

Mr Obama has also been more active on Twitter of late, praising Senator Elizabeth Warren’s plan to tackle coronavirus and criticising the state of Wisconsin’s decision to hold elections last week.

While not specifically mentioning Mr Trump he has also weighed in on the response to the coronavirus epidemic, noting the “racial and socioeconomic factors” that influence the spread of the virus, and calling on policymakers “to keep our most vulnerable communities at the forefront when making decisions”.

Bernie Sanders

Mr Obama’s endorsement comes a day after Mr Sanders endorsed Mr Biden for the Democratic nomination. Mr Biden and Mr Sanders, who were both contesting the Democratic nomination up to a week ago, joined forces in a live-streamed event on Monday during which Mr Sanders announced he was supporting the former vice president.

“Today, I am asking all Americans. I’m asking every Democrat; I’m asking every independent; I’m asking a lot of Republicans – to come together in this campaign to support your candidacy, which I endorse, to make certain that we defeat somebody who I believe is the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country,” Mr Sanders said.

Mr Biden thanked Mr Sanders for being a leading voice in addressing inequality in America and “forcing us to look in the mirror and ask difficult questions”.

In particular, Mr Biden is seeking to appeal to young voters who supported Mr Sanders overwhelmingly in the primary contest, helping to propel the veteran socialist to victory in several early voting states.

The show of unity between Mr Sanders and Mr Biden this early in the campaign is in contrast with the Democratic contest four years ago when Hillary Clinton and Mr Sanders were locked in a bitter primary battle right up to the summer.

Responding in advance to Mr Obama’s announcement, Mr Trump’s re-election campaign pointed to previous reports that the former president had discouraged Mr Biden from running in 2016.

Last week Mr Trump suggested an ulterior motive for Mr Obama not having endorsed his former vice president. “It does amaze me that President Obama hasn’t supported Sleepy Joe,” Mr Trump said during the White House coronavirus task force briefing. “It just hasn’t happened. When is it going to happen? When is it going to happen? Why isn’t he? He knows something that you don’t know, that I think I know, but you don’t know. So it’ll be interesting.”

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent