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Dodd endorses Obama

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  • NEW: Sen. Chris Dodd says it's time for Democrats to "get behind this candidacy"
  • Dodd endorses Sen. Barack Obama for president
  • Obama "would make an excellent commander in chief," Dodd says
  • Dodd dropped out of presidential race after poor showing in Iowa
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (CNN) -- Former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Chris Dodd on Tuesday endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for president, calling on fellow Democrats "to come together, to get behind this candidacy."

Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut is the first ex-Democratic hopeful in 2008 to back Sen. Barack Obama.

At a news conference in Cleveland, Ohio, Dodd warned that a heated fight for the Democratic presidential nomination could damage the party.

"I don't want a campaign that is only divisive here, and there is a danger of it becoming that, not because the candidates want it, but too often the advisers, the consultants, others are seeking for that divisiveness," he said.

"It is devastating in the longer term when it comes to building victories, uniting people and making a difference."

Obama is in a heated battle for the Democratic presidential nomination with Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York. Obama leads Clinton in the race for delegates 1,327 to 1,255.

Obama and Clinton will next compete March 4 in primaries in Ohio, Texas, Vermont and Rhode Island.

Obama has won 11 contests in a row since Super Tuesday on February 5. Supporters of Clinton -- including former President Clinton -- has said she must do well in Texas and Ohio if she is to soldier on for the nomination.

A former adviser for Dodd said the timing of the senator's endorsement "works pretty well" given that foreign policy has become a key issue of the campaign. Video Watch Dodd explain why he supports Obama »

"With Clinton on the attack, a recognized leader on foreign and military affairs is vouching for Obama's readiness," the Dodd adviser said.

Dodd is a senior member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

The Connecticut lawmaker dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination following a poor showing in the Iowa caucuses in January.

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In an e-mail to supporters Tuesday morning, Dodd wrote, "While both of our party's remaining candidates are extremely talented and would make an excellent commander in chief, I am throwing my support to the candidate who I believe will open the most eyes to our shared Democratic vision.

"I'm deeply proud to be the first 2008 Democratic presidential candidate to endorse Barack Obama," he added. "He is ready to be president. And I am ready to support him -- to work with him and for him and help elect him our 44th president." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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

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