“I want to add my voice to the many who have endorsed you to be our president,” Clinton said. “Just think what a difference it would make right now if we had a president who not only listened to the science, put facts over fiction, but brought us together, showed the kind of compassion and caring that we need from our president and which Joe Biden has been exemplifying throughout his entire life.”
Many Democrats blame antagonism between supporters of Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) partly for their loss in 2016, and the party is urgently trying to avoid a repeat of this factionalism. Sanders endorsed Biden on April 13, so Tuesday culminated a two-week stretch in which the two 2016 combatants came together behind the likely nominee, with other major figures endorsing him in between.
Clinton spoke at length about her personal friendship with Biden during their tenure in the Obama administration. She recalled a time he showed her his Scranton, Pa., childhood home, recounted his love for trains and ice cream, and described their Tuesday morning breakfasts during the Obama years.
The partially scripted conversation that followed focused substantially on their mutual criticism of Trump’s leadership during the coronavirus pandemic. Clinton called Trump’s performance an “incoherent, really impossibly indifferent, insensitive approach.” Biden urged Trump to embrace such measures as a freeze in foreclosures and evictions.
Clinton was a popular senator from New York and secretary of state, as well as a former first lady, but her endorsement does not come without baggage. Some Sanders supporters still harbor grievances against her, and she has long faced animosity from many conservatives and Trump supporters.
Still, the endorsement fits well into the party’s broader unity push. It came as a group of longtime Sanders aides launched a new group, called Future to Believe In, to rally liberals and left-leaning activists behind Biden. The aides, including top Sanders adviser Jeff Weaver, argue that a Biden win would help cement Sanders’s agenda.
“Electing Joe Biden as President of the United States will allow some of those gains to be institutionalized so that our movement can focus on pushing the debate even further in years to come,” Weaver said in a statement.
Some Sanders supporters who remain skeptical of Biden expressed dismay at the new group, but the party overall is rallying around Biden after a Democratic primary that at one point included two dozen candidates.
Clinton’s action follows a Biden endorsement Monday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). And Clinton is the third recent presidential nominee, following former vice president Al Gore and former president Barack Obama, to pledge support for Biden’s campaign.
Like other party leaders, Clinton withheld her endorsement when the presidential primary was competitive, though she broke from her peers by openly criticizing Sanders and declining to say that she would support him if he became the nominee.
“Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done. He was a career politician,” Clinton said of Sanders in a documentary released in January.
When asked that same month by the Hollywood Reporter if she would support Sanders were he to win the nomination, she replied, “I’m not going to go there yet.”
The Trump campaign reacted quickly to Tuesday’s news, dismissing both Biden and Clinton and seeking to play up the Democrats’ divisions.
“There is no greater concentration of Democrat establishment than Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton together,” Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, said in a statement. “Both of them carry the baggage of decades in the Washington swamp and both of them schemed to keep the Democrat nomination from Bernie Sanders.”
At the end of the event, Biden told Clinton that he wished she were now serving as president. “We would have problems. We would have the pandemic,” he said. “But you would already have been prepared for it.”
Clinton responded in kind.
“Well, I will tell you one thing I would have done, which you know so well — I would have read my daily intelligence briefings,” Clinton said, a reference to a Washington Post report citing repeated warnings Trump received about the coronavirus during classified intelligence briefings in January and February.