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Gov. Deval Patrick, a one-time Clinton administration official, has decided to endorse Barack Obama over rival Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary campaign.
Patrick plans to make his declaration next Tuesday during a rally with the Illinois senator in Boston, according to an e-mail Patrick sent to his supporters on Wednesday.
While Patrick served in the 1990s as head of the Justice Department's civil rights division under former President Clinton, whose wife is now a New York senator and the Democratic presidential front-runner, he also shares a strong connection with Obama from their mutual Chicago heritage and experience as black student leaders at Harvard Law School.
Last fall, Patrick became the first black governor of Massachusetts and only the second black state leader in the nation's history. Obama has the potential to become the nation's first black president.
Obama campaigned on Patrick's behalf during last fall's gubernatorial campaign, as did former President Clinton, and Patrick's endorsement returns the political favor.
In his e-mail on Wednesday, Patrick praised Obama for his "unifying, visionary leadership.''
He added: "As a Democrat, I am proud that the field of Democratic contenders is so strong. Many are friends and colleagues with whom I have worked over the years. But frankly, I believe the importance of this election transcends friendships and party. I believe we need unifying, visionary leadership. I believe we need a president who would level with the American people. I believe we need Barack Obama.''
The governor declared that "not just national policy but the national character is at stake."'
Phil Singer, a Clinton campaign spokesman, said: "We understand that they have a longstanding friendship and share the same chief strategist, but we're proud of the Massachusetts support we enjoy from leaders like Congressmen McGovern and Neal, Mayor Menino and others.''
He referred to support for Clinton from U.S. Reps. James McGovern and Richard Neal, both Massachusetts Democrats, and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. Obama strategist David Axelrod, a Chicago-based political consultant, was a media adviser to Patrick during his gubernatorial campaign.
A Patrick administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity before the formal announcement downplayed race as a factor in the decision, pointing instead to the governor's belief that Obama is attempting to inspire the public to re-engage in the political process _ a goal of Patrick's since his "Together We Can'' gubernatorial campaign.
"I think it's a very difficult decision for him, but I think it came down to who he thought was right for the country at this time,'' the official said.
The endorsement could also be a boon for Obama by supplying him with a practiced force of campaign workers who can travel easily across the border to help his efforts against Clinton in the New Hampshire primary.
Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, also seeking the Democratic nomination, said in Boston on Tuesday that whoever were to gain Patrick's endorsement would be fortunate. He called the governor "a serious player.''
This program aired on October 17, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.
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