President 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.
An afternoon meeting with Vice President Biden was also added to Sanders's schedule for Thursday. The two are set to meet at the vice president's residence at the Naval Observatory, said Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs.
"He is seeking out the counsel of people he admires and respects," Briggs said of Sanders.
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.
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 District, 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.
The hour-long meeting with Obama came on a busy day for Sanders in Washington, where he also has an early afternoon meeting planned on Capitol Hill with Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who has sought to play the role of peace broker at the end of a contentious nominating contest between Sanders and Clinton.
Before flying back home Thursday night to Burlington, Vt., Sanders plans to stage the kind of large-scale rally that has become a signature of his campaign, this one at RFK Stadium in the District.
Sanders said he would make statehood for the District a major focus of his campaign here, noting that it has a similar population to Vermont, which is represented by two senators and a congressman in Washington.
The rally comes four days ahead of the Democratic primary in the District. Twenty delegates are in play, but there is little at stake following Clinton's clinching of the nomination this week, punctuated by her decisive win Tuesday in California, the nation's most populous state.
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's 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.