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Inside Politics

Clinton and Obama rack up dueling endorsements

Story Highlights

• Sen. Clinton endorsed by New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, leading Democrats
• Sen. Obama endorsed by mayors of Newark and Jersey City, New Jersey
• Endorsements by top politicians provide campaign infrastructure and donors
From Mary Snow
CNN New York Bureau
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- The two leading rivals for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, both picked up endorsements Monday from state and local officials in New York and New Jersey, two key states participating in next year's February 5 coast-to-coast primary showdown.

At a rally in Albany, New York, Clinton was endorsed by a veritable who's who of Democratic leaders in her adopted home state, including Gov. Eliot Spitzer, Lt. Gov. David Paterson and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo.

Spitzer hailed Clinton, who lived in Arkansas before moving to New York to run for the Senate in 2000, as "a New Yorker through and through because she has wisdom, courage, guts."

"That is what defines us as a state and as a nation," he said.

Meanwhile, at a news conference in Jersey City, New Jersey, Obama, who represents Illinois in the Senate, picked up endorsements from mayors of New Jersey's two largest cities, Newark's Cory Booker and Jersey City's Jerramiah Healy.

"Barack Obama is expanding a vision for America that's inclusive, that's exciting, that's innovative, that's competitive," said Booker, who is viewed by many as a rising political star in the Garden State.

Monday's dueling endorsements are part of a fierce competition between presidential campaigns for nods from public officials in key states. Beyond generating headlines, winning endorsements from state and local politicians can give candidates access to political organizations and donors, as well as demonstrate strength.

"Hillary Clinton has to protect her base in New York and people she's worked with," said Hank Scheinkopf, a Democratic strategist. "Barack Obama has got to expand his base coming out of Illinois."

Commenting about Monday's endorsements, Obama said they "help provide a leadership infrastructure in the state that allows you to get that message out."

"But the campaign will be won or lost on my message," he said.

Indeed, as the 2004 presidential campaign showed, even an eye-popping endorsement can have limited staying power.

Before the Iowa caucuses, former Vice President Al Gore, the party's standard-bearer in 2000, endorsed former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who was then riding a political wave to the front of the Democratic pack.

"When Gore endorsed Howard Dean, it really did give the impression that things were coming together for Dean and he might well be the nominee," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "But after a few days, Dean had to stand on his own."

Dean went on to finish fourth in Iowa; his campaign never recovered.

Both New York and New Jersey have moved up their 2008 primaries to February 5, which is shaping up to be a make-or-break day in next year's political calendar.

So far, nominating contests are scheduled for that day in 12 states, including California, and 13 other states are considering a move to what could become a de facto national primary, with balloting from coast to coast.


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