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Kerry endorses Obama over '04 running mate

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  • NEW: Sen. Barack Obama will bring the country together, Sen. John Kerry says
  • Kerry was the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004
  • John Edwards, also running for the '08 Democratic bid, was Kerry's running mate
  • Obama picked up key endorsements from unions in Nevada this week
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CHARLESTON, South Carolina (CNN) -- Sen. John Kerry on Thursday endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, saying the senator from Illinois is a "candidate to bring change to our country."

"Barack Obama isn't just going to break the mold," said Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate four years ago. "Together, we are going to shatter it into a million pieces."

The senator from Massachusetts made the announcement in front of an enthusiastic crowd in Charleston, South Carolina, 16 days ahead of the state's Democratic primary.

Kerry said he was stirred by the way Obama "eloquently reminded us of the fact that our true genius is faith in simple dreams and insistence on small miracles." Video Watch Kerry explain why he's picking Obama »

The endorsement could be seen as a blow to former Sen. John Edwards, who was Kerry's running mate in the 2004 election.

Edwards also is vying for the Democratic presidential nomination this year.

The endorsement shouldn't come as a surprise to Edwards, who was publicly critical of Kerry's campaign after the earlier election.

Following news of the endorsement, Edwards released a statement saying he respects Kerry's decision.

"When we were running against each other and on the same ticket, John and I agreed on many issues," Edwards said. "I continue to believe that this election is about the future, not the past, and that the country needs a president who will fight aggressively to end the status quo and change the Washington system and to give voice to all of those whose voices are ignored in the corridors of power."

Kerry made an oblique reference to the other candidates in the race "with whom I have worked and who I respect" in his speech Thursday.

"They are terrific public servants, and each of them could be president tomorrow, and each would fight to take this country in the right direction, but I believe that more than anyone else, Barack Obama can help our country turn the page and get America moving by uniting and ending the division that we have faced," he said.

A source suggested senator's support for Obama will be a big boost because Kerry "remains one of the most popular figures in the Democratic Party and [has] an e-mail list with millions of addresses."

In an e-mail sent to the JohnKerry.com community Thursday, the former presidential candidate said the next president of the United States "can be, should be, and will be Barack Obama."

A Kerry spokesman said Obama will be sending out a note to Kerry's e-mail list, which was created during the 2004 run and numbers 3 million.

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Obama on Wednesday picked up endorsements from two key unions in Nevada, which holds its caucuses January 19.

Atlanta, Georgia, Mayor Shirley Franklin recently announced her endorsement of Obama, and sources said Thursday that Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota also would back the senator from Illinois. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Candy Crowley and Mark Preston contributed to this report.

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