By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama says both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden would make outstanding presidents. And beyond that, he's staying out of the debate about who should succeed him in 2016.
That was the message Obama laid down in an interview on Thursday with MSNBC's "Hardball" program when host Chris Matthews asked him to compare and contrast the two.
"Not I chance am I doing that," he said.
"Both Hillary and Joe would make outstanding presidents and possess the qualities that are needed to be outstanding presidents," he said.
America's political world is a boil as to whether former Secretary of State Clinton will seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. Similar questions are being asked about Biden, Obama's vice president.
Clinton, wife of former President Bill Clinton, leads most surveys of Democratic voters, and many analysts doubt Biden would seek the nomination if it put him up against Clinton.
But Clinton has steadfastly refused to say for sure whether she will run while making carefully selected appearances around the country and working on a book.
Even Bill Clinton, who works with his wife at the Clinton Global Initiative, is professing ignorance of her plans.
"No, I don't," he told Fusion television on Tuesday when asked if he knew about her 2016 plans.
"She's trying to finish her book. She's gotten several projects up and going with our foundation. And she believes and I believe that the four-year campaign mania is a big mistake," he said.
Obama said Clinton and Biden have "different strengths" but both would be outstanding.
(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)