President Obama gave Hillary Rodham Clinton a pass when it comes to opposing one of his administration's highest priorities, the ratification of a major new trade deal with 11 Pacific Rim nations.
Asked about her stand at a news conference Friday, the president issued an admonition to reporters about questions he will try to avoid answering.
"During the course of what will be a long campaign, I probably won't be commenting on every single utterance or decision that the various candidates make," he said.
"I think that it is natural and proper for candidates to run on their own vision and their own platform."
Questions about Clinton's position on trade are best directed to her, he said. But he indicated no great umbrage about his former secretary of State or other Democrats taking the other side on the issue, noting that they agree "on 95% of stuff."
He also downplayed how engaged he is in the campaign debate.
Some 15 million viewers watched Tuesday's encounter among the Democratic candidates, but Obama noted there was a baseball playoff game on at the time.
He was doing some "clicking back and forth," he said.
"The one observation I will make about the Democratic debate was that those are all some very fine people," he said, adding they generally agree with his outlook on the economy, foreign policy and issues such as climate change.
"You know, the vision of the Democratic Party that I fought for is one that is broadly shared by all the candidates," he said.
The president has shown little reluctance to weigh in on Republican primary politics. At a recent dinner he wondered why Republicans "running for my office" were "so down on America," citing what he said was the "new reality" they'd invented in which Obama inherited a nation enjoying a "golden era," and then "messed it all up."
But as his answer indicated, he wants to avoid being pulled into Democratic primary politics -- as Clinton alternately runs toward or away from his record and Vice President Joe Biden looms as a potential candidate.
Asked separately whether the window was closing on a Biden presidential bid, Obama responded tersely: "I am not going to comment on what Joe is doing or not doing."
He also made clear he doesn't plan to issue an endorsement right away.
"I will have a vote like everybody else as a citizen, and that ballot is private," he said.