Obama’s powerful embrace of Hillary Clinton

President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton walk away from the podium during the Transfer of Remains Ceremony for the return of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Libyan embassy employees at Joint Base Andrews September 14. 2012 in Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. Stevens and the three other embassy employees were killed when the consulate in Libya was attacked September 11. (Photo by Molly Riley-Pool/Getty Images)

President Obama enthusiastically praised and championed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in ajoint interview Sunday night, sending what amounted to direct signals to his supporters that he would be pleased if she were his successor and that his supporters should forget any lingering tension from the hard-fought 2008 campaign, as the president himself has.

Obama and Clinton both sidestepped any questions about the 2016 campaign, and it remains unclear if Clinton will run again. But if she does, and wants to court the Democratic voters who backed Obama instead of her in 2008, the former first lady now has a very strong supporter for her credentials as a logical heir to Obama’s base: Obama himself.

“I just wanted to have a chance to publicly say thank you, because I think Hillary will go down as one of the finest secretary of states we’ve had. It has been a great collaboration over the last four years. I’m going to miss her,” Obama said in explaining why he had suggested a joint appearance with Clinton on 60 Minutesbefore the secretary of state’s tenure ends this week.

The president repeatedly spoke of Clinton’s service in the Cabinet in glowing terms, calling her one of his most important advisers. But just as importantly, he said what had at first been a marriage of political convenience turned into a genuine friendship.

“By the time Hillary joined the administration,I felt very confident and comfortable in our working relationship. I think what did evolve was a friendship as opposed to just a professional relationship,” the president said.

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