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US Presidential Contenders Earn High-Profile Endorsements


U.S. presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and John McCain are looking to benefit from some high-profile endorsements with a little more than two weeks to go until the first campaign test in Iowa on January 3. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports from Washington.

Clinton won the endorsement of the Des Moines Register newspaper, which described her as best prepared among the Democratic contenders to confront the nation's challenges.

Clinton was asked about it on NBC's Today program.

"It made the case that what we need right now in America is proven leadership, the kind of leadership that I have offered making positive change for 35 years," she said.

Clinton is engaged in a tight three-way battle in Iowa with Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina.

Iowa kicks off the presidential primary season January 3 with its party caucuses.

Clinton and her surrogates continue to question whether Obama has enough experience to be president.

Former President Bill Clinton was interviewed on The Charlie Rose program on PBS.

"When is the last time we elected a president based on one year of service in the Senate before he started running," asked the former president.

Obama argues that he is an agent of change and is now the target of Clinton attacks because his message is catching on with voters.

"When I was 20 points down, they all thought I was a wonderful guy," said Obama. "So obviously, things have changed."

Obama won the endorsement of the Boston Globe newspaper, which has a large readership in the neighboring early primary state of New Hampshire.

In the race for the Republican Party presidential nomination, Senator John McCain of Arizona is looking for a boost from endorsements from two major newspapers and one prominent former Democrat.

Both the Des Moines Register and the Boston Globe endorsed McCain among the Republican contenders. McCain also won the endorsement of longtime friend and fellow Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.

Lieberman ran as the Democratic Party's vice presidential nominee in 2000, but last year won re-election as an independent.

McCain told NBC's Today program the endorsements should help to re-energize a campaign trying to overcome staff and fund-raising problems earlier in the year.

"They say, 'Hey, I will have another look at this person, I will have another look at McCain and see why they are saying what they are about him', and I think that gives me an opportunity," he said.

Experts say political endorsements are of questionable value in the modern campaign era.

"The Lieberman endorsement has to be seen as a plus for McCain, but it is difficult to see how this translates into many votes in the Republican primaries and caucuses," said Larry Sabato, who directs the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

McCain and the other Republican hopefuls are trying to blunt a surge by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Huckabee emerged from relative obscurity earlier this year to vault to the top of the latest polls in Iowa over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee.

Thompson spoke about the importance of the Iowa caucuses on January 3 with the CBS program Face the Nation.

"Yes, we need to do well in Iowa, there is no question about that," said Thompson. "But others do too."

Clinton and Giuliani had been seen as the frontrunners for their party nominations for much of the year. But as the actual voting draws near, the uncertainty in both parties appears to be growing.

Some analysts believe whichever candidate can offer change will have the best chance to win.

Richard Wolffe, White House correspondent for Newsweek magazine, was a recent guest on VOA's Issues in the News program.

"What we are in is a moment of change," he said. "Whoever on the Democratic or Republican side can lay claim to change, I think, is going to win in November, and it could be a Republican, it could be a Democrat."

Presidential contenders from both political parties are focused on the early contest states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, all of which take place in January.

Historically, candidates who do well early in the primary process tend to wind up winning their party nominations.

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