Asked by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews in an interviewed aired last night about whether Vice President Joe Biden or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would make a better president, President Obama said “not a chance am I going there.”

Then he did.

“Both Hillary and Joe would make outstanding presidents and possess the qualities that are needed to be outstanding presidents,” Obama said. “They — and I think Joe Biden will go down in history as one of the
best vice presidents ever. And he has been with me at my side in every tough decision that I have made, from going after bin Laden, to dealing with the health care issues, to — you name it, he’s been there.”

Biden has been in Asia this week on a swing through Japan, China and South Korea.

“Hillary, I think, will go down in history as one of the finest secretaries of State we have ever had, and helped to transition us away from a deep hole that we were in when I first came into office, around the world, and to rebuild confidence and trust in the United States,” Obama continued.

“And they’ve got — they’ve got different strengths, but both of them would be outstanding.”

He then continued about “the most important qualities of any president.”

“I’m not necessarily saying I have these qualities because I’m speaking historically — I think has to do with more than anything a sense of connection with the American people. That’s what allows you then to have that second quality, which is persistence,” Obama said.

“If you know who you’re working on behalf of, if you remember as Lincoln did or an FDR did or Truman did or a Kennedy did. If you remember that person that you met who was down on their luck but was a good character and was trying to figure out how they are going to support a family. If you remember that young child who has big dreams but, you know, doesn’t yet know how they’re going to get to college — if you feel those folks in your gut every single day, that will get you through the setbacks and the difficulties and the frustrations and the criticisms that are inherent in the office,” he continued.

“And I think, you know, the interesting thing about now having been president for five years is it makes me humbler as opposed to cockier about what you as an individual can do. You recognize that you’re just part of a sweep of history. And your job really is to push the boulder up the hill a little bit before somebody else pushes it up a little further and the task never stops at perfecting our union.”

Obama characterized the American people as “good” and “decent.”

“And yes, sometimes we get very divided partly because our politics, and our media specifically tries to divide them and splinter them,” he said. “But, you know, we’ve got so much stuff going for us that as long as any president stays close to the people, I think they’re going to do all right.”