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WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Barack Obama is praising Rep. Nancy Pelosi as one of the most effective legislative leaders in the country’s history. He’s stopping short of backing her bid to be elected House speaker in the new Congress, but his words sound a lot like an endorsement.

The former president’s comments come as Pelosi tries fending off moderate House Democrats trying to thwart her effort to become speaker. They say it’s time for new party leaders.

Obama says Pelosi’s “not always the best” on television shows. But he says her “skill, tenacity, toughness, vision is remarkable.” He says the 78-year-old knows how Washington works and was “an extraordinary partner.”

Obama was asked about Pelosi by his former White House chief of staff, David Axelrod, on his podcast, “The Axe Files.”