Senator Barack Obama picked up a potentially important endorsement Thursday in his campaign for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has the latest on the U.S. election campaign from Washington.
Obama won the endorsement of Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic Party's presidential nominee in 2004. Kerry's endorsement came at an Obama rally in South Carolina.
"He has a superb talent, as all of you know, to communicate the best of our hopes and aspirations for America and for the world," said Kerry. "And that is why Barack Obama has the greatest potential to lead a transformation, not just a transition."
South Carolina hosts a Democratic primary on January 26 and is now shaping up as a key battleground between Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton, fresh off her victory in the New Hampshire primary.
Obama told supporters he is grateful for Kerry's help.
"I want to thank John Kerry for his support in this campaign, but more importantly, for his service to this nation," he said.
Obama and Clinton are engaged in a tight, state-by-state contest to win delegates in the primaries and caucuses who will select the party nominee for president at the Democratic nominating convention in late August.
Kerry's endorsement could give Obama a boost in the wake of his narrow loss to Clinton on Tuesday.
"It keeps Obama's momentum going," said Dottie Lynch, a political analyst for CBS News. "He lost the New Hampshire primary, but this says a major figure in the Democratic Party still supports him. And for someone who just lost a primary, that is really important."
In endorsing Obama, Kerry bypassed his 2004 vice presidential running mate, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards. Experts say Edwards is looking for a good showing in South Carolina to stay in the race.
Meanwhile, another Democrat is leaving the presidential race. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson withdrew after disappointing fourth place finishes in both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.
"We made our case for change, but guided by an experienced hand," said Richardson. "We made our case for foreign policy with principles and realism."
The next major test for the remaining Democratic candidates is the Nevada party caucuses on January 19.
On the Republican side, the focus is on next Tuesday's Michigan primary where Senator John McCain of Arizona hopes to build on his win in the New Hampshire primary.
McCain faces a strong challenge in Michigan from former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
Romney hopes to do well in his native state where his father, George Romney, was governor. Romney is struggling after second place finishes in both Iowa and New Hampshire.
Huckabee is also focusing on the January 19 Republican primary in South Carolina where he hopes to win the support of religious conservatives, the same group who helped propel him to victory in Iowa.