Barack Obama will endorse his former vice president, Joe Biden, as the Democratic candidate for president on Tuesday, according to two people familiar with the former president’s plans.

Obama’s endorsement was expected now, just as the general election against President Donald Trump begins. He’d long made clear that he would wait for Democratic voters to choose their nominee before getting involved in the race. Biden didn’t wait for the endorsement, however, to capitalise on their relationship. From his campaign launch video onward, the legacy of his eight years in the White House with Obama was at the core of his argument for voters.

Obama’s announcement comes a day after Biden’s final opponent for the nomination, Bernie Sanders, endorsed his former rival and urged Americans of all political affiliations to unite around Biden to defeat President Donald Trump.

Obama’s endorsement means that he and former first lady Michelle Obama, the two most popular figures in the Democratic Party, can begin to campaign – and raise money – for Biden. While Biden’s campaign had hoped to hold massive rallies to roll out the support of the Obamas, it is settling for a digital rollout during virus-related social distancing.

Obama remained publicly neutral throughout the primary race, but he offered to share advice and speak privately with any Democratic candidate. Most candidates took him up on the offer. But as the race narrowed, Obama spoke more frequently with Biden, including congratulating him for his victory in South Carolina, and he spoke a number of times with Sanders as he was contemplating the end of his campaign.

Obama and Biden remain close friends, a bond that deepened when Biden was grieving over the death of his son Beau in 2015. Their partnership in the White House – in which Biden was given a broad portfolio – is also the model Biden has been contemplating as he begins the process of selecting his own running mate.

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