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Romney endorses McCain as Clinton raps Obama

BOSTON - Former Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney endorsed one-time rival John McCain on Thursday and urged Republicans to unite behind him in a move that could help McCain with disgruntled conservatives.
Republican presidential candidate U.S. Senator John McCain speaks after receiving the endorsement of former primary rival Mitt Romney, right, at Romney's campaign headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts February 14, 2008. (REUTERS/Neal Hamberg)

In the Democratic race, Sen. Hillary Clinton accused surging opponent Barack Obama of lacking substance and experience as she fought for political traction in Ohio after a string of losses.

After a rough campaign battle between them to be the party's nominee in November's election, Romney set aside his differences and offered conciliatory language to McCain a week after dropping out of the race, calling him an American hero.

"Even when the contest was close and our disagreements were debated, the caliber of the man was apparent," Romney said with McCain at his side. "This is a man capable of leading our country at a dangerous hour."

McCain said it was a hard campaign but "now we move forward together for the good of our party and our nation."

"We had differences on specific issues, but there was never any doubt about the common philosophy and principles and dedication to the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan that we share," he said.

Romney, 61, and McCain, 71, had battled bitterly over who was the real conservative in the race, culminating in a caustic debate in California on Jan. 30.

But all that was set aside when the two men got together in Boston for a formal endorsement ceremony, a move intended to encourage Republican conservatives long distrustful of McCain to unite behind the all-but-certain nominee.

"I still have my views, the senator has his views, but as a party we come together," Romney said. "We can't possibly incorporate all views of all Republicans into one individual, because we have differing views."

If all of Romney's 282 delegates were added to McCain's 822, it would give McCain 1,104 and put him within easy reach of the 1,191 needed for nomination, although Romney's delegates are not necessarily bound by his recommendations.

Conservatives consider McCain a turncoat for his moderate views on illegal immigration and for having originally voted against President George W. Bush's tax cuts, and persuading them to generate voter turnout for him in the November election will be a central challenge.

McCain still faces opposition from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has picked up the support of some conservatives who had been backing Romney.


While Republicans were busily trying to unite, Clinton was trying to stop Obama's wave of momentum.

Brandishing a pair of blue boxing gloves given to her at a General Motors automobile plant, Clinton portrayed herself as a fighter and Obama as someone who makes a lot of speeches that sound good but do not offer solutions.

"That's the difference between me and my opponent. My opponent makes speeches. I offer solutions. It is one thing to get people excited. I want to empower you," the New York senator said.

Clinton, the one-time front-runner for her party's nomination who now finds herself in political peril, intensified her attack as she was forced to scramble for sweeping victories in Ohio and Texas on March 4 and in Pennsylvania on April 22.

She focused on an area that some Democratic strategists say is a weak spot for Illinois Sen. Obama -- his tendency to give uplifting, inspirational speeches that offer little in the way of specifics about how he would lead the United States if elected.

The rhetoric comes days after Clinton shook up the top level of her campaign staff and is attempting to re-energize her White House bid, as Obama rides a wave of momentum from a winning streak that reached eight states in a row on Tuesday.

A new poll showed that at this point, she is in a strong position in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The Quinnipiac University poll said she leads Obama 55 percent to 34 percent among likely Democratic voters in Ohio, and 52 percent to 36 percent in Pennsylvania.

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