In the U.S. presidential race, Democratic contender Barack Obama got some good news, after being on the defensive for much of the week over his relationship with his controversial former pastor.  VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has the latest on the campaign for the White House from Washington.

Senator Obama picked up the support of former National Democratic Party Chairman Joe Andrew.

Andrew had been a supporter of Senator Hillary Clinton.  But he told reporters in Indiana that he was switching sides because it is time for the divisive Democratic nomination fight to come to an end.

"I am changing my support from Senator Clinton to Senator Obama and am doing so with a heavy heart about how this process has hurt the Democratic Party, but enlightened and energized by what I have seen from Senator Obama, particularly in the past days and weeks," Andrew said.

Obama and Clinton face a major test in primaries in Indiana and North Carolina on Tuesday.

New public opinion polls suggest the controversy over Obama's former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, has taken a toll on Obama's political standing in recent days.

Earlier this week, Obama denounced Wright's contentions that U.S. government policies brought about the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and that the government was capable of using the AIDS virus against African-Americans.

Obama was asked about the recent turmoil in his campaign on the NBC Today program.

"You know, here I am, an African-American named Barack Obama, who is running for president," Obama said. "I mean, that is a leap for folks.  We have had, what, a month-and-a-half in which you have had the Reverend Wright controversy, you have had the issue of my comments in San Francisco that have been magnified pretty heavily.  I mean, that has been a pretty full dose."

Despite the rough patch for the Obama campaign, the Illinois senator continues to draw increasing support from previously uncommitted so-called superdelegates.

Clinton has also won some superdelegate endorsements in recent days, but her once formidable lead over Obama in that category continues to dwindle.

Superdelegates are Democratic Party activists and officeholders who attend the national nominating convention as unpledged delegates.

Recent polls show a very tight race in Indiana between Obama and Clinton, and that Obama's once-sizeable lead in North Carolina is shrinking. 

Hillary Clinton has said little this week about the Reverend Wright controversy, and has focused instead on economic concerns as she talks to voters in North Carolina and Indiana.

"I hope that I can earn the support of voters here in Indiana," Clinton said. "This is an important primary, and I am asking people who work hard for a living to support me on Tuesday because I think we need to have a fighter for hard-working middle class families back in the White House, and that is what I will be."

Obama holds a lead in the overall delegate count, but hopes to recapture the political momentum, after recent convincing Clinton victories in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

When they are not focused on each other, both Democrats prefer to rhetorically target the presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain.

The national Democratic Party has begun running ads suggesting a McCain presidency would amount to a third term for President Bush, who is barred from seeking re-election by the U.S. Constitution.

McCain told MSNBC television he is confident that voters will make a distinction between himself and the president when they go to the polls in November.

"The president and I have agreed on many issues, and we have disagreed," McCain said. "I really believe that at the end of the day, the American people are going to judge me on what they think I will be as president of the United States, not on anybody else."

The Wall Street Journal newspaper noted that despite new poll numbers predicting a bleak year for Republicans in general, McCain continues to be very competitive with both Obama and Clinton in possible general election match-ups.