Harry Reid
Harry Reid Reuters

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday announced that he is endorsing Hillary Clinton for president.

Speaking to CNN, the Nevada Democrat issued a plea for his party to consolidate behind Clinton, who has struggled to fend off Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont.

"I think the middle class would be better served by Hillary," Reid told the network.

"I think that my work with her over the years has been something that I have looked upon with awe. She was the first lady. She started the trend toward looking to do something about health care. She understood the issue well, she was the front on the health care during that administration," he added.

"I also think she's the woman to be the first president of the United states that's a female," said Reid.

Reid's endorsement makes him the highest-ranking Democrat to get behind Clinton, who narrowly won last Saturday's Nevada caucuses and is the heavy favorite heading into the next primary in South Carolina.

His comments also mark a shift in tone for the Nevada Democrat, who in a CNN interview earlier this month was critical of Clinton's campaign in his state and suggesting that the race could continue until the Democratic convention in July.

On Wednesday, Reid wouldn't repeat that prediction, but admitted it could continue for a while.

"I don't know about that, you know I had some meetings today and I think the race is moving along very quickly so we'll have to see, we'll have to see what happens next month," he told CNN.

Reid also declined to call on Sanders to drop out if he doesn't do well in the upcoming Super Tuesday contests on March 1st, saying Sanders' advisers need to decide the senator's strategy.

Reid's endorsement of Clinton came days after a poll found that Sanders was in a statistical dead heat with former Clinton, with 42% of Democrats nationwide saying they’d back him, compared to 44% for Clinton.

Just two months ago the same poll had Clinton leading Sanders by a whopping 31 points, 61 to 30.

The Sanders campaign has enjoyed significant momentum following his blowout 22 point victory over Clinton in the New Hampshire primary earlier this month.