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US National Organization for Women Endorses Hillary Clinton's Campaign

U. S. Senator Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign has picked up the endorsement of a prominent women's organization. The endorsement followed appeals by Clinton and her Democratic Party rivals for labor union support, as we hear from VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone.

Senator Clinton was endorsed by the National Organization for Women, which bills itself as the largest organization of feminists in the country, with more than half a million members.

The endorsement could help Clinton win support among women voters and liberal Democrats as she competes with several rivals for the 2008 Democratic Party presidential nomination.

Senator Clinton was among several Democratic candidates who addressed a convention of construction-union members in Washington.

"We will renew the promise of this great nation and when I meet with you on that short drive from the White House in 2009, we will be able to say, America is back, we are on the right track," she said.

The latest USA Today-Gallup poll had Clinton leading the Democratic field with 35 percent support, followed by Illinois Senator Barack Obama with 22 percent.

Obama also addressed union members and promised to expand health care coverage if elected next year.

"It is time for us to have universal health care in this country, and one of the things that I pledge is that by the end of my presidency, we will have universal health care for every single American in this country. It is long over due. We know that we can do it," he said.

The recent USA Today-Gallup poll had former Vice President Al Gore in third place with 17 percent. Gore has said repeatedly he has no plans to run for president next year.

Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards placed fourth in the poll with 14 percent support, up several points from earlier in the month. Edwards recently announced that his wife, Elizabeth, has had a recurrence of cancer, but that he is remaining in the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

Edwards also addressed health care during his appearance before the union convention.

"The truth of the matter is these things cost money and my health care plan cost $90-$120 billion dollars a year and this is how I pay for it, by rolling back George Bush's tax cuts for the richest people in America, that is how I pay for it," he said.

The polls and most political experts have long suggested Senator Clinton is the clear frontrunner in the Democratic field.

But analyst John Fortier of the American Enterprise Institute told VOA's Encounter program that Barack Obama remains a major factor in the Democratic race.

"I still think it looks like it will be Hillary Clinton. But Barack Obama, if he ends up one-on-one with her [as her main challenger] and Democrats are feeling as confident as they are today, they may just decide that they will go with this person [Obama] despite a lack of experience and because he is more pure [opposed from the start] on the [Iraq] war, he may give her a challenge," he said.

In the battle for the Republican Party's presidential nomination, the latest poll had former New York City Mayor Rudy in the lead, followed by Arizona Senator John McCain and former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson.

Thompson says he is considering a White House bid and could be a formidable candidate because he is well known by the public for his acting roles in films and on television.