"The president welcomes Governor Chafee to the party," Carney said after multiple news outlets reported that the independent Rhode Island governor had notified senior Democratic Party officials that he intends to switch his party registration.

Chafee’s decision comes ahead of his bid for a second term in 2014, confirming a move the governor has been hinting at for months. Chafee served in the Senate as a Republican, but left the GOP in 2007. In 2010, he was elected as the nation’s only independent governor.

As governor, Chafee has struggled with poor approval ratings, weak fundraising numbers and opposition from the Democratic-controlled General Assembly. Over the past few months, he has indicated that he was thinking about the switch, campaigning for Obama during the president's reelection effort and speaking at the Democratic National Convention last year.

The move complicates next year’s race, setting up a potentially competitive Democratic primary field. State Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, both seen as strong Democratic contenders, have reportedly been gearing up to launch bids for the office.