WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama offered his formal endorsement of Hillary Clinton with a video Thursday and plans to campaign with the former secretary of state in Wisconsin next week, efforts aimed at speeding the Democratic Party's unification around its presumed presidential nominee.
"I know how hard this job can be, that's why I know Hillary will be so good at it," Obama says in the video. "In fact I don't think there's ever been someone so qualified to hold this office. She's got the courage, the compassion and the heart to get this job done."
The swift endorsement came after the president met with Sen. Bernie Sanders at the White House earlier Thursday and the senator from Vermont indicated he is preparing to exit the Democratic nominating battle.
Sanders has been under pressure to stand down and help unify the party after a long and contentious battle with Clinton for the nomination. Obama's endorsement will add to that pressure, although most party leaders, including the president, have urged that Sanders be allowed to decide his plans on his own timetable.
The president's decision to move quickly to give his public support to Clinton indicates his desire to begin to play a more active role in making the case against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump as unqualified to be president and to try to rally those who have backed Sanders behind Clinton's candidacy. Clinton and Obama will campaign together in Green Bay, Wis., her campaign confirmed.
In an interview with Bloomberg News, timed to correspond with the video's release, Clinton welcomed Obama endorsement.
"It just means so much to have a strong, substantive endorsement from the president. Obviously I value his opinion a great deal personally," Clinton said. "It's just such a treat because over the years of knowing each other, we've gone from fierce competitors to true friends."
The news of Obama's endorsement was greeted with a tweet by Trump: "Obama just endorsed Crooked Hillary. He wants four more years of Obama — but nobody else does!"
After meeting with Obama, Sanders said he is looking forward to working with Clinton to defeat Trump in the fall.
"Needless to say, I'm going to do everything in my power, and I'm going to work as hard as I can, to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president of the United States," he told reporters, as his wife, Jane, stood behind him.
Sanders said he still plans to compete in Tuesday's final Democratic primary in the Washington, D.C., but he added that "in the near future" he hopes to meet with Clinton — who this week clinched the Democratic nomination — to talk about ways they can work together.
His comments suggested that Sanders is preparing to exit the long and grueling presidential race, as long as leading Democrats make a genuine effort to incorporate his policy ideas into their broader agenda.
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The hourlong meeting with Obama came on a busy day for Sanders in Washington, where he also has a meeting planned on Capitol Hill with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev..
An afternoon meeting with Vice President Joe Biden was also added to Sanders's schedule for Thursday, said Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs.
"He is seeking out the counsel of people he admires and respects," Briggs said of Sanders.
Sanders has vowed to stay in the race through the Democratic convention in July, in a last-ditch bid to win the nomination by flipping the allegiance of hundreds of superdelegates who have already announced support for Clinton. A growing number of Sanders's supporters have acknowledged that the scenario is far-fetched.
Increasingly, Sanders' aim seems to be using the leverage that he and his millions of loyal followers now have to ensure that his campaign agenda — anchored around issues of income and wealth inequality — has a central place in the Democratic Party's platform and general-election strategy.
The Obama video was taped on Tuesday, before Clinton had claimed victory, according to White House press secretary Josh Earnest.
Sanders's 11:15 a.m. meeting Thursday with Obama was arranged at the senator's request, according to the White House, and went longer than scheduled.
Standing before reporters after his meeting with Obama, Sanders began his remarks by thanking the president and the vice president "for the degree of impartiality" they showed throughout the primary after promising to stay neutral.
"What they said at the beginning is that they would not put their thumbs on the scale," he said, "and in fact, they kept their word, and I appreciate that very, very much."
After outlining the movement he has sought to create over the past year, saying he would continue to push for a more expansive federal government that would help the poor, senior citizens and young people, Sanders made clear he sees the Republican nominee as a more serious threat to U.S. society than seeing his own presidential hopes falter.
"Donald Trump would clearly, to my mind and to, I think, the majority of Americans, be a disaster as president of the United States," he said.