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Inside Politics

Cuomos endorse Kerry

Edwards talks with Dean supporters on conference call

Kerry campaigns Saturday in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Sen. John Kerry campaigns Saturday in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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(CNN) -- Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo and his son, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo, endorsed Sen. John Kerry for president Saturday.

"It seems to me he has everything it takes to make a really great candidate," Mario Cuomo told reporters in a conference call. "I'm delighted and pleased we're endorsing him, and I'll do everything I can to help."

Andrew Cuomo extolled Kerry's agenda for the economic empowerment of urban areas as "very impressive."

Citing Kerry's "innovative housing proposals," the younger Cuomo, who served in the Clinton administration, said "his future agenda is even more impressive when it's backed by his past performance, so it's my pleasure to endorse him."

Although "any number" of Democrats could do a good job as vice president, Mario Cuomo singled out Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who is running second in delegates to Kerry.

"He'd be a natural favorite, I would think, to a lot of people. But there's a lot of analysis I'm sure that has to go into it," said Cuomo, who was New York governor from 1983 to 1995.

New York's Democratic primary is Tuesday, one of 10 presidential nominating contests around the country that day, aka Super Tuesday, when 1,151 delegates are up for grabs.

Kerry campaigned in the Empire State on Saturday, playing host to town hall meetings in Brooklyn and Buffalo. Edwards was in Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia, before heading to Cleveland, Ohio, and New York.

Edwards arranged a conference call Saturday with more than 50 state coordinators and supporters from the Howard Dean campaign in about 12 states to discuss working together, an Edwards aide said.

Among the participants were undecided members of the Dean movement as well as those who plan to back Edwards.

Among the 12 are the three largest states holding primaries Tuesday -- New York, California and Ohio -- as well as Texas and Florida, which hold primaries March 9.

Dean, the former Vermont governor who once led the Democratic hopefuls in the polls, suspended his campaign February 18 after a string of primary and caucus losses.

He urged his supporters to remain active in the nominating process but has not endorsed any remaining candidate.

After the call, Edwards campaign manager Nick Baldick and several Dean organizers held a conference call with reporters.

Eric Schmeltzer, head of Deaniacs for Edwards in New York, was in on the call and said about 30 Dean supporters gathered for a rally Saturday afternoon and delivered leaflets in New York City.

The campaigns of Edwards, Kerry and Rep. Dennis Kucinich have all been trying to tap the network of Dean supporters as they prepare to face off Tuesday. (CNN.com's interactive Election Calendar)

"People who supported Governor Dean have been part of a movement all across America, and that was a grass-roots movement to change this country," Edwards told reporters Saturday in Augusta.

"My campaign has been about exactly the same thing: change in America, changing what's happening in Washington, doing it with a perspective that comes from out here."

Dean's organization in Minnesota recommended Thursday that its activists back Edwards, after meeting separately with Edwards, Kerry and Kucinich. Minnesota holds caucuses Tuesday.

Edwards said Friday he has been talking regularly with Dean. A senior Edwards adviser said the campaign does not expect Dean to endorse any candidate.

Friday, four New York congressmen who supported Dean -- Reps. Jerry Nadler, Major Owens, Joseph Crowley and Maurice Hinchey -- switched their allegiance to Kerry.

In a conference call with reporters, Kerry said he and Dean have talked "a number of times" in the past week.

"He's been graceful and has shown the mark of a leader in the way that he's talked about the urgency of defeating George Bush and the need to try to bring the party together," the Massachusetts senator said.

Of the 21 primaries and caucuses held so far, Kerry has won 19, while Edwards has won only his native state of South Carolina.

Kerry has rolled up 744 delegates; Edwards, 220; Dean, 179; the Rev. Al Sharpton, 16; and Kucinich, 9. To get the nomination, a candidate needs 2,162 delegates at this summer's Democratic National Convention. (CNN.com's interactive Delegate Scorecard)

Trolling for votes in the delegate-rich Golden State on Friday, Kerry accused Bush of alienating allies and doing "too little" in the war on terror.

"I don't fault George Bush for doing too much on the war on terror. I believe he's done too little," Kerry told an audience at the University of California at Los Angeles.

"Where's he's acted, his doctrine of unilateral pre-emption has driven away our allies and cost us the support and critical cooperation of other nations. Iraq is in disarray with American troops still bogged down with no exit in sight."

Kerry, a four-term U.S. senator from Massachusetts, mentioned Bush by name more than a dozen times in his speech, reflecting his strategy of focusing on the Republican incumbent and not on Edwards, his strongest challenger for the nomination.

Edwards, Kerry, and Kucinich and Sharpton are scheduled to appear in an hourlong debate Sunday morning sponsored by CBS and The New York Times. There will be no live audience for the debate, which begins at 11 a.m. ET at CBS Studios in New York.


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