WASHINGTON: The White House on Monday left open the possibility that President Barack Obama would make an endorsement in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary race, which could feature his vice president running against his former secretary of state.
Vice President Joe Biden is mulling a race against Hillary Clinton, the current front runner in the nominating contest, who is struggling to overcome fire over her use of a private email server during her time as the top U.S. diplomat.
Obama is close to both leaders and has not indicated support for either in a potential match-up.
Biden and Obama had lunch at the White House on Monday after the president returned from a two-week vacation on the Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest, asked whether the president would openly back one of the Democratic candidates, said it was not out of the question.
"I wouldn't rule out the possibility of ... an endorsement in the Democratic primary," Earnest told reporters, adding that Obama planned to vote in the primary election in Illinois, the state he represented as a senator before entering the White House.
Earnest repeated that Obama has said choosing Biden as his running mate in 2008 was the best political decision he had ever made.
He said Biden, who has already been on a national political ticket twice, knows the challenges that would face him if he decided at this stage to run.
"There is probably no one in American politics today who has a better understanding of exactly what is required to mount a successful national presidential campaign," Earnest said.
Despite her struggles, Clinton remains the prohibitive favorite, not least because of an early start on fundraising and an advanced get-out-the-vote structure in early voting states.
A match-up between the two would no doubt create awkwardness for the president and others in the White House whose priority is to elect another Democrat in 2016 to preserve the record established under Obama's watch.