Joe Biden Says He Asked Former President Barack Obama Not to Endorse Him Because ‘Whoever Wins Should Win on Their Own Merits’

President Barack Obama walks with Vice President Joe Biden along the Colonnade, Feb. 3, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Joe Biden has told his former boss not to endorse him.

Hours after Biden, 76, announced his 2020 presidential campaign, the former vice president told reporters that he purposely urged Barack Obama to hold off on declaring his approval.

“I asked President Obama not to endorse,” Biden told reporters on Thursday. “Whoever wins this nomination should win it on their own merits.”

Meanwhile, Obama offered kind words of encouragement to the man he often referred to as his “brother.”

“President Obama has long said that selecting Joe Biden as his running mate in 2008 was one of the best decisions he ever made,” Obama spokeswoman Katie Hill said in a statement to PEOPLE on Thursday.

“He relied on the Vice President’s knowledge, insight, and judgment throughout both campaigns and the entire presidency. The two forged a special bond over the last 10 years and remain close today,” the statement concluded.

A source familiar with Obama’s thinking also told PEOPLE it is “unlikely that he will throw his support behind a specific candidate this early in the primary process – preferring instead to let the candidates make their cases directly to the voters,” adding that “President Obama is excited by the extraordinary and diverse talent exhibited in the growing lineup of Democratic primary candidates. He believes that a robust primary in 2007 and 2008 not only made him a better general election candidate, but a better president, too.”

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SOURCE: PEOPLE, Karen Mizoguchi