Democratic and Republican U.S. presidential hopefuls are focusing respectively on two southern U.S. states as they continue to seek voter support.

Democratic Party presidential candidates have an important test Saturday with a primary in South Carolina, while the Republicans prepare to face off Tuesday in Florida.

A recent poll puts New York Senator Hillary Clinton in the lead nationally, while Illinois Senator Barack Obama leads the Democrats in South Carolina.

Polls indicate that Arizona Senator John McCain and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney are leading the contest in Florida.

The New York Times newspaper has endorsed Clinton and McCain as its choices for presidential candidates from the two parties.  It says the former first lady is experienced, has tackled complex issues - although sometimes failing - and has a powerful intellect and impressive depth of knowledge.

The Times says McCain is the only Republican who promises to end what it described as President Bush's style of governing on behalf of a "small, angry fringe."

The newspaper spurned Republican and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, calling him a "narrow, obsessively secretive, vindictive man who saw no need to limit police power."  It says the Giuliani who showed leadership and strength after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack is not the same Giuliani who is running for president.
In a debate Thursday in Florida, Republican hopefuls called for more tax cuts while agreeing that a new stimulus package is a good start for addressing the problems of the economy.

In other news, Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich has announced he is dropping his bid for the party's presidential nomination.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.