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Daschle backs Obama in presidential primary race

Story Highlights

• Daschle lost Senate seat in 2004, had considered White House run
• Former South Dakota senator was Senate Democratic leader
• Obama is one of nine Democratic primary candidates
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle is throwing his support to Sen. Barack Obama in the scramble for the party's 2008 presidential nomination, an Obama campaign aide told CNN.

His commitment to Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, comes nearly 11 months before the Iowa caucuses, the first votes of the 2008 campaign. The wide-open race has already drawn nine Democrats and 10 Republicans who have either declared their candidacies or formed exploratory committees.

Daschle lost his Senate seat from South Dakota to Republican John Thune in 2004 after serving as the chamber's majority leader and minority leader during a three-term stint. He was the first Senate leader to lose a re-election bid since 1952.

Daschle had considered a presidential bid himself, but his top political adviser said in December that the former senator would not seek the White House next year.

A former Air Force intelligence officer, Daschle was first elected to the Senate in 1986, after eight years in the House. He managed to remain popular in South Dakota, despite being a Democrat representing a solidly Republican state. He won re-election easily in 1992 and 1998.

During most of his years as Democratic leader, Daschle's party was in the minority. But he did serve as Senate majority leader from June 2001 until January 2003, after Sen. Jim Jeffords' decision to leave the Republican Party and caucus with the Democrats as an independent changed Senate control.

Republicans regained the majority again in the 2002 election, and Daschle considered leaving the Senate to run for president in 2004. He eventually decided to forgo a White House bid to seek re-election.

However, his national profile diminished his popularity in South Dakota, as Senate Democrats under his leadership used filibusters to thwart Bush's judicial nominees and block Republican initiatives. Bush carried South Dakota by 21 points; amid that tide, Thune beat Daschle 51 percent to 49 percent.


Former Sen. Tom Daschle, left, is backing Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination.

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