Hillary Rodham Clinton collected her first endorsement from a member of President Barack Obama's Cabinet on Tuesday when Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack cited her leadership and loyalty in announcing his decision to fall in line behind the "battle-tested" and embattled Democratic presidential contender.
Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, also endorsed Clinton during the 2008 contest. She lost the nomination to Obama.
His latest endorsement comes as Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, is mired in controversy over her use of a private email account and server while she was Obama's first-term secretary of state. Vilsack's backing also comes amid rampant speculation that Vice President Joe Biden, who has been consulting with political advisers, will jump into the race to help soothe the nerves of some Democrats who are growing increasingly skittish about Clinton's viability as a candidate.
"Hillary Clinton has the right policies to strengthen and expand the middle class, is battle tested, and has the experience and relationships to lead and govern well," the Obama secretary wrote in an opinion piece posted on the website of The Gazette newspaper of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Clinton's campaign also circulated the piece.
Along with her policies and experience, Vilsack also cited Clinton's loyalty and their friendship of more than two decades as reasons for supporting her over her Democratic rivals: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb.
Vilsack planned to join Clinton for campaign appearances Wednesday in Iowa.