Obama gains Kerry’s endorsement

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., believes Sen. Barack Obama has what Nevada voters are looking for.

Kerry, who spent plenty of time in this crucial swing state as the Democratic presidential nominee four years ago, said Thursday that Obama is in tune with the needs of the Silver State.

"Nevada is a state that cares a lot about moving the country forward," he said. With the state’s rapid development, infrastructure and energy needs, voters here are looking for a candidate who promises to overhaul the system, he said.

"Nevada wants change. The whole country wants change," Kerry said in a phone interview on his way back to Boston from South Carolina, where he announced his support for Obama Thursday. "I haven’t met anybody who doesn’t think things can’t be better. People are fed up with Washington, and Barack Obama represents change."

Kerry’s 2004 efforts here didn’t pay off. He lost to President Bush by a margin of three and a half percentage points in Nevada.

Obama arrives in town today as he and rival Hillary Clinton, who was in Las Vegas Thursday, battle for the support of the state’s Democrats in the Jan. 19 Nevada caucuses.

Both are saturating television airwaves with commercials, all of them positive messages so far. Obama on Thursday put another ad into his rotation, "Moment," which intersperses footage of a well-received speech the Illinois senator gave in Des Moines with quotations from news headlines, including one in the Review-Journal, attesting to his message.

The 60-second ad, versions of which have aired elsewhere, will run alongside a commercial about health care in which Obama talks about his mother’s death from cancer.

The well-established theme of the still-early presidential contest pits Obama’s image as a visionary reformer against Clinton’s as seasoned and ready to make things happen. Both are using the C-word — "change" — nearly nonstop.

"I don’t want to spend the next year, or the next four years, re-fighting the same fights that we had in the 1990s," Obama says in the ad. "I don’t want to pit red America against blue America. I want to be the president of the United States of America."

Kerry, in the interview, said Obama shouldn’t be perceived as naive just because he is preaching unity. "Barack Obama is not just glossy words," he said, listing among Obama’s accomplishments ethics reform in Congress and children’s health care in Illinois.

"He knows how to get these things done," Kerry said. "He’s also smart enough to see pretty quickly that the place is broken. Some people are trying to reduce his rhetoric, but what great leader has not inspired?"

In endorsing Obama, Kerry passed over not only Clinton but his former running mate, John Edwards, who insists he still can compete in Nevada despite what increasingly looks like a two-person race. Relations between Edwards and Kerry had reportedly become strained in the years since their ticket’s defeat.

Asked whether he, a senator for more than two decades, didn’t represent the very Washington establishment Obama is campaigning against, Kerry said, "Everybody in Washington is unfortunately caught up in the gridlock the Republicans are creating. Harry Reid is our majority leader, your senator, and he will be the first to tell you. … People understand where the problem is, but a lot of Americans are just fed up with the whole thing."

Whether the Democrats can succeed this year where they came up short in 2004 "is up to the voters," Kerry said, adding that he wouldn’t be surprised if many Nevadans regret their votes for Bush.

"I do believe a lot of people regret that there hasn’t been more leadership from the White House in the past four years on issues that matter to them," he said. "Nevadans in particular," he said, "heard Bush vow to base decisions on ‘sound science,’ then saw him push forward with the nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, despite evidence some of the science was flawed."

Obama opposes the Yucca Mountain project even though his home state of Illinois would like to send spent nuclear rods to Nevada and the nuclear industry has contributed heavily to his campaign.

Contact reporter Molly Ball at mball @reviewjournal.com or (702) 387-2919.

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