01/28/2013 09:50 am ET Updated Jan 28, 2013

Obama 2016 Endorsement Unlikely During Democratic Primary, Former Clinton Aide Says

A former aide to Bill Clinton dismissed speculation Monday that President Obama would endorse Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for president in 2016, predicting that the president will likely stay impartial through the Democratic primaries.

Appearing on CNN's "Starting Point," former Clinton chief of staff Thomas "Mack" McLarty said that despite Obama and Clinton's strong working relationship, the president would likely refrain from making an endorsement in the early stages of the 2016 race.

"He probably stays neutral, certainly during the primaries," McLarty told CNN's Soledad O'Brien. "I think that's been the standard for any sitting president. And look, it's a long time. Four years is a long time."

While McLarty, who has known former President Clinton since childhood, said that he believes the Secretary of State is "eminently qualified" for the White House, he acknowledged that Obama will likely have other considerations to keep in mind, including the political future of Vice President Joe Biden.

"I can't speculate too much about the president ... He's put Vice President Biden on the point in terms of some of these negotiations," McLarty said. "And there may well be some other very well-qualified candidates on the Democratic side, certainly on the Republican side. It really is a little too far out to speculate. I think the president really probably most likely stays neutral. He's got a full plate ahead of him."

During a joint interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" that aired Sunday evening, Obama and Clinton demurred when asked about 2016.

"You guys in the press are incorrigible," Obama said. "I was literally inaugurated four days ago. And you're talking about elections four years from now."

However, throughout the interview the president lavished praise on Clinton's "discipline, her stamina, her thoughtfulness," adding fuel to the speculative fire.

"The president and I care deeply about what's going to happen for our country in the future," Clinton said of her political prospects. "And I don't think, you know, either he or I can make predictions about what's going to happen tomorrow or next year."



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