Former Clinton administration aid endorses Obama

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BOSTON, Oct 18 (Reuters) Massachusetts Gov Deval Patrick, a former top civil-rights enforcer in the Clinton administration, gave his support to Barack Obama in the race for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

The endorsement by Patrick, the second black elected governor in US history, could give the Illinois senator a boost in neighboring New Hampshire, the early voting state where New York Sen Hillary Clinton has a commanding lead in recent polls, and harden Obama's support among black voters.

''Patrick is seen as one of the new generation of African-American leaders who has some cross-over appeal, and that gives him some cachet,'' said Tufts University political science professor Jeffrey Berry.

''It also gives Obama a little bit of a shot in the arm in New Hampshire, where things have not been going well for him,'' he added. ''Boston media dominates southern New Hampshire.'' Clinton is backed by 41 per cent of likely Democratic voters in New Hampshire, compared with 20 per cent for second-place Obama, according to a poll released this week by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

Patrick served as assistant US attorney general for civil rights under President Bill Clinton, who along with his wife campaigned for Patrick last year when he ran successfully to become the state's first Democratic governor in 16 years.

''Frankly, I believe the importance of this election transcends friendships and party,'' Patrick said in an e-mail to supporters. ''I believe we need unifying, visionary leadership.

I believe we need a president who will level with the American people. I believe we need Barack Obama.'' Both Patrick and Obama are Chicago natives and both attended Harvard Law School.

REUTERS CS BST0516

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