- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 26, 2008

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Sen. Chris Dodd this morning became the first 2008 Democratic presidential candidate to back a former rival, announcing here he now supports Sen. Barack Obama.

Mr. Dodd had criticized Mr. Obama as inexperienced during his own bid, which ended after a lousy showing in Iowa, but assured voters he is now “completely convinced” his one-time opponent should win the party nomination.

“He’s ready to be president,” Mr. Dodd said as the two shared a podium following a laudatory introduction by the Illinois senator.

Video: Sen. Dodd endorses Obama

Mr. Dodd, representing Connecticut in his fifth term in the Senate, said he spoke with Mr. Obama’s rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, last night to let her know his decision.

He said these are “not comfortable conversations,” and he pointedly praised Mrs. Clinton and her husband for their accomplishments.

“It’s now the hour to come together,” said Mr. Dodd, a superdelegate, adding a warning that party infighting could be “devastating in the longer term.”

“This is the moment for Democrats and independents and others to come together to get behind this candidacy,” he said.

When pressed, he said he did not encourage Mrs. Clinton, who trails Mr. Obama in the delegate count after 11 straight February losses, to end her bid should she not win decisively in next Tuesday’s primaries.

In his endorsement, which was accompanied by a morning e-mail appeal to his supporters, Mr. Dodd said Mr. Obama can unite Americans from all parties.

The young senator can “appeal to and excite the imagination of younger people,” Mr. Dodd said, adding later that he can “reach and touch the hearts and souls of Americans.”

Both Democrats have been courting former candidate New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who watched the Super Bowl with Bill Clinton and has regular talks with Mr. Obama but has stayed mum on his choice for the nomination.

Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware has said he will stay neutral.

Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who has met with both Democrats, has not endorsed anyone yet but may back a candidate before the March 4 contests in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont. Many former Edwards supporters have swung Mr. Obama’s way, along with some of his staffers.

The Clinton-Obama debate begins tonight at 9 and will air on MSNBC.

It appeared this morning that an early Clinton event near Cleveland would fall victim to cancellation due to nasty winter weather.

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