America's only Hispanic governor, New Mexico's Bill Richardson, has come out in favor of Sen. Barack Obama for president.
Richardson, who dropped out of the Democratic race in January, said Obama is a "once-in-a-lifetime leader who can unite the nation and restore America's international leadership." Richardson is to appear with Obama on Friday at a campaign event in Portland, Oregon, The Associated Press has learned.
The governor's endorsement comes as Obama leads among delegates selected at primaries and caucuses but with national public opinion polling showing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton pulling ahead of him amid controversy over statements by his former pastor.
Richardson has been relentlessly wooed by Obama and Clinton for his endorsement. As a Democratic superdelegate, the governor plays a part in the tight race for nominating votes and could bring other superdelegates to Obama's side. He also has been mentioned as a potential running mate for either candidate.
"As a presidential candidate, I know full well Sen. Obama's unique moral ability to inspire the American people to confront our urgent challenges at home and abroad in a spirit of bipartisanship and reconciliation," Richardson said.
Richardson's endorsement also could help Obama pick up support among Hispanics, who are the nation's largest and fastest-growing minority.
Clinton has been the favorite of Hispanics in primaries and caucuses, according to exit polls. She won the New Mexico caucus in early February with a nearly 2-to-1 advantage among Hispanics.
Richardson praised Hillary Clinton as a "distinguished leader with vast experience." But the governor said Obama "will be a historic and great president, who can bring us the change we so desperately need by bringing us together as a nation here at home and with our allies abroad."