Obama close to endorsing Clinton for Democratic presidential nominee

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Source: Obama may give Clinton endorsement

LOS ANGELES, June 6 (Reuters) - After staying above the campaign fray for months, U.S. President Barack Obama could endorse Hillary Clinton as early as this week as the Democratic presidential nominee, nudging Bernie Sanders to finally abandon his long-fought challenge, U.S. media reported on Monday.

The expected Obama endorsement, reported by The New York Times and CNN, would come as a welcome boost to Clinton and to Democrats concerned that the party needs to turn its attention fully to campaigning against Republican nominee Donald Trump.

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While he has made remarks indicating a preference for Clinton, his former secretary of state, Obama has so far avoided a clear endorsement and has focused his remarks about the campaign on blasting Trump.

A senior White House official would not comment on timing of any endorsement but said Obama is eager to campaign where he might be useful.

Clinton has long been the front-runner to be the Democratic nominee in the Nov. 8 election but has faced an unexpectedly tough fight against Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont who has attacked her from the left.

She is expected to clinch the party nomination on Tuesday when voters in six states cast ballots. Her campaign hopes an expected victory in New Jersey will give her enough delegates to effectively lock up the nomination early in the evening, before the results come in from California, the biggest electoral prize and likely the last to report results on Tuesday.

But although he lags well behind in delegates needed to win the nomination, Sanders has vowed to take the fight to the Democratic National Convention in July.

See more of Clinton's famous supporters:

12 PHOTOS
Important people who support Hillary Clinton (Politicians, famous figures, other celebs)
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Obama close to endorsing Clinton for Democratic presidential nominee

Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., smiles during an event with Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, in Omaha, Nebraska, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. Buffet said at the rally that he was supporting Clinton's bid for president because they share a commitment to help the less affluent. (Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Governor Jerry Brown, seen here with then-candidate Bill Clinton in 1992, notoriously did not like the Clintons for years, but announced a week before the California primary that he would back Hillary Clinton. (Photo by Cynthia Johnson/Getty)
Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, seen here at the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscar Party, hasn't formally endorsed Hillary Clinton but he has donated $2700 to her campaign and backed her in 2008. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
Walter Mondale was the first former Democratic vice president to endorse Clinton (REUTERS/Craig Lassig)
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., has been an early Clinton backer, seen here at a 'Super Tuesday' watch party her campaign in Atlanta, Ga., March 1, 2016. He is famous for his work fighting for civil rights alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
LEBANON, NH - JANUARY 09: Former U.S. Women's National Soccer Team captain Abby Wambach smiles while she is introduced to a crowd at a Hillary Clinton campaign office on January 9, 2016 in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Wambach highlighted Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's commitment to standing up for women and girls. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
Singer Demi Lovato, seen here onstage at WE Day California 2016, is a Clinton supporter. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for WE Day )
Actress and screenwriter Lena Dunham campaigns for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Eight Seven Central screen printers in Des Moines, Iowa, January 9, 2016. REUTERS/Brian C. Frank
Singer Katy Perry, center, holds a sign in support of Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, as Clinton speaks at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. With Vice President Joe Biden officially out of the presidential race, the nation's first nominating contest between front-runner Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders is gaining steam, according to a new Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, seen here working with Clinton when they were Senate colleagues, was an early supporter of the former secretary of state. (REUTERS/William Philpott WP/SV)
Actress Kerry Washington, seen here at a 30th anniversary presentation at the 2015 Film Independent Spirit Awards, is a Clinton supporter. (Adrees Latif / Reuters)
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Clinton supporters said on Monday that Sanders should acknowledge her victory and move toward uniting the party behind her.

"I think at the bare minimum what he can do is not try to delegitimize the process or call into question the fact that Hillary Clinton is truly the nominee after Tuesday," Brian Fallon, Clinton's press secretary, said on CNN.

Mo Elleithee, executive director of Georgetown University's Institute of Politics and Public Service and a former Clinton campaign staffer, said her June 2008 concession to Obama in the closely fought Democratic primary that year should be a roadmap for Sanders.

"She gave her supporters who wanted a chance to vote for her a chance to vote for her. Then she stood up and said to her supporters, 'Now let's get behind the presumptive nominee,'" Elleithee said.

CALIFORNIA VOTES

Clinton has 2,357 delegates going into Tuesday's contests, just 26 short of the 2,383 she needs to clinch the nomination at next month's convention in Philadelphia.

Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and New Mexico also hold nominating contests on Tuesday, but most attention will focus on California. Clinton once held a sizable lead there over Sanders, but opinion polls in recent days show a dead heat between the two.

While Clinton expects to become the presumptive nominee regardless of the California result, a Sanders victory there could embolden his supporters to urge him to wage a fractious convention fight.

It could also help Trump argue that she is a weak candidate. Trump secured the delegates he needed to clinch the Republican nomination last month, leaving him free to focus on battering Clinton.

Sanders' campaign appeared to burn through cash to get to the final nominating contests, ending April with just $5.8 million on hand, compared to Clinton's $30 million. The senator has not released his May fundraising figures. Spokesman Michael Briggs said in an email the campaign was "doing fine."

Clinton heads into Tuesday's contests with a victory this weekend in Puerto Rico's primary. And though Sanders could campaign in Washington, D.C., ahead of the final primary of the year on June 14, Clinton is expected to win there.

Trump, a real estate developer, has regularly stirred up controversy on the campaign trail and has frequently dismayed Republican establishment leaders. In recent days, his comments about a judge he believes to be biased against him because he is Mexican-American have drawn a fresh wave of criticism, including concern in his own party.

On Monday Trump rejected criticism of his allegations of bias, insisting his concerns were valid.

The latest Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll shows Clinton with an 11-percentage-point edge over Trump, 46 percent to 35 percent, a marked change from just 10 days ago, when fewer than 4 percentage points separated the two.

See some of Clinton's potential running mates:

15 PHOTOS
Hillary Clinton potential running mates, VPs
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Obama close to endorsing Clinton for Democratic presidential nominee

Tim Kaine

The junior Democratic Senator from the swing state of Virginia could be a strategic selection for Hillary. Kaine also served as the governor of Virginia from 2006- 2010.

(Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Elizabeth Warren

The current U.S. Senator from Massachusetts is popular among progressive Democrats, and some even tried to draft her to run for president herself in 2016. 

(Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sherrod Brown

Insiders believe that the senior U.S. Senator from Ohio could help Clinton increase her popularity with working-class voters, a group she has yet to win in a big way so far in primary contests.  

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Cory Booker

The U.S. Senator from New Jersey is both youthful and charismatic and would add racial diversity to a Clinton ticket. 

(Photo by KK Ottesen for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Tom Perez

The current U.S. Secretary of Labor is considered a sleeper pick by many Democrats because he is not well known outside of D.C., but some believe his strength and popularity among union workers and other progressive groups could be an asset to Clinton's ticket. 

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Julian Castro

The former mayor of San Antonio and current U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development has been rumored as a possible running mate for Clinton for months, but in May he said in an interview that the Clinton campaign hasn't talked to him about the role.

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Amy Klobuchar

Insiders confirmed that Clinton is definitely considering a woman as her vice presidential pick, and as U.S. Senator from Minnesota, Klobuchar has a seat Democrats would likely maintain. She's also been described as "by far" the most popular politician in her state. 

 (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

Bernie Sanders

The Independent from Vermont has become Hillary Clinton's primary rival for the Democratic nomination, garnering a surprising amount of support. Bringing Sanders onto the ticket could help to unite both sets of supporters who have been split in Democratic primaries.

(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

Martin O'Malley

A former 2016 rival of Hillary Clinton, and former Maryland governor, Martin O’Malley could help bring some executive experience, along with a slight youthful boost to the ticket.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Tom Vilsack

The Secretary of Agriculture since 2009, Tom Vilsack also served as the governor of Iowa from 1999 to 2007. Vilsack could bring some governing experience along with swing state influence.  

(BELGIUM - Tags: AGRICULTURE POLITICS BUSINESS)

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper delivers his annual State of the State address to lawmakers and guests, inside the state legislature, in Denver, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Hickenlooper called upon Republicans and Democrats to return to an era of civility and compromise in his address to the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-led House. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Evan Bayh 

Evan Bayh could bring a more right leaning brand of politics to the ticket. Bayh previously served as the junior U.S. Senator from Indiana from 1999 to 2011, and also as the 46th Governor of Indiana from 1989 to 1997.  

Joe Biden

While the likelihood of him agreeing to take on the veep job again might be low, Biden's popularity among Democrats would likely boost Clinton's chances. 

(Photo credit MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Bill Clinton

Hillary's husband is technically allowed to serve in the job, and some legal experts even think he'd be able to take office if necessary. Unfortunately for the diehard Clinton supporters, a Clinton-Clinton ticket will probably be a dream that never comes true. 

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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(Additional reporting by Ginger Gibson, Amanda Becker, Emily Stephenson, Timothy Gardner and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Caren Bohan and Frances Kerry)

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