- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 19, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Former South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges officially backed Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign Wednesday, saying the former secretary of state is to be commended for going from an adversary of Barack Obama in 2008 to an ardent supporter.

“I am a convert,” said Hodges, who served as a national co-chairman of Obama’s 2008 campaign. “I was really glad that election ended when it did because she gained momentum, gained a voice, gained strength. What a tough adversary and opponent she was.”

Hodges, who previewed his endorsement Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press, spoke before introducing John Podesta, a former White House chief of staff under Bill Clinton.

Podesta, who is chairing Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, was in Columbia to answer questions from a room full of around 80 campaign supporters. Questions ranged from the long-term viability of programs like Social Security, the campaign’s stance on drilling off South Carolina’s coast and helping the working poor recover from the economic downturn.

Some supporters asked how the Clinton campaign is affected by the strengthening of other Democratic efforts, like Bernie Sanders - slated to travel to South Carolina later this week - or Vice President Joe Biden, who recently mulled a potential run during his vacation on Kiawah Island here.

“If he decides to run, we’ll welcome him to the race,” Podesta said after his remarks during an availability with reporters.

Podesta also addressed the issue of the private computer server Hillary Clinton used to send, receive and store emails during her four years as secretary of state. It’s been handed over to the FBI, which is holding the machine in protective custody after the intelligence community’s inspector general raised concerns recently that classified information had traversed the system.

“She’s tried to provide as much information as possible,” Podesta said, of Clinton’s cooperation, adding that none of the material sent or received by her had been marked as classified.

Another Clinton surrogate is in South Carolina this week. James Carville is in Columbia on Saturday for a breakfast sponsored by the Richland County Democratic Party before officially launching Clinton’s campaign effort in the area.

The former adviser to former President Bill Clinton travels Saturday to York to campaign at York Summerfest.

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Kinnard can be reached at https://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP

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