US president lends his support to former secretary of state ahead of her expected 2016 campaign announcement

Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama

She would make “an excellent president,” were President Barack Obama’s words when he publicly offered his support to Hillary Clinton, a day ahead of her expected announcement of a second run for the White House.

Speaking after a meeting with Cuban counterpart Raul Castro at the Summit of the Americas, Mr Obama said Mrs Clinton had been a formidable candidate against him when they competed for the Democratic nomination in 2008.

He said she became a great supporter of his in the general election that year, and that she was an outstanding secretary of state during his first term.

“She was an outstanding secretary of state, she is my friend. I think she would be an excellent president,” Mr Obama said, adding that her time in office will have amply prepared her for how to “handle herself” on the world stage.

“When she makes a decision to announce, I’m confident she will be very clear about her vision for the country moving forward if she announces,” he added.

Mr Obama once said one of the best decisions he ever made as president “was to have Hillary Clinton serve as our secretary of state. … I’ll always be grateful for her extraordinary leadership  around the world.”

However, the relationship between the two has been complicated since Mrs Clinton left office in 2013. During her summer book tour, Mrs Clinton pointedly highlighted differences with her former boss over how the early stages of the Syrian civil war were handled. She said the administration was wrong not to have armed the opposition sooner – before terrorist elements took over control of rebel groups.

Obama speaking in a press conference after a meeting with Cuban counterpart Raul Castro

The timing of the president’s comments is key, as Mrs Clinton is expected to announce her presidential bid on Sunday with a video message.

After the announcement, she will reportedly travel to the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Mrs Clinton, the wife of former President Bill Clinton, is the overwhelming favorite for the Democratic nomination and no other major Democratic figure has stepped forward to challenge her, although former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has moves towards a possible campaign.

Her campaign is expected to concentrate on making the 67-year-old former first lady relatable to ordinary Americans. Mrs Clinton spent four years jetting to foreign capitals as Mr Obama’s first-term secretary of state but has had limited day-to-day contact with everyday Americans.

But Mrs Clinton’s biggest obstacle may be overcoming her own image.

She has struggled to get past accusations that she might be too secretive based on the revelation earlier this year that she had gone against federal recommendations to use an official email account while at the State Department and instead used her own private server.