Democratic Senate leader endorses Obama

January 17, 2008 2:38:38 PM PST
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, endorsed presidential candidate Barack Obama on Thursday. "We need a president who can reintroduce America to the world and actually reintroduce America to ourselves," Leahy, D-Vt., said in a conference call with reporters. "I believe Barack Obama is the best person to do that."

Leahy's endorsement gives Obama eight among Democratic senators, compared to 11 for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Many Democratic senators have held off on public endorsements in the presidential race, in part because there were at one time four Democratic senators and a former one in the race.

More endorsements could follow now that Sens. Christopher Dodd and Joseph Biden have dropped out, though the Democratic field remains crowded with senators: Obama, Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards are still in the race.

Leahy, 65, was elected to the Senate in the post-Watergate class of 1974 and presides over the committee's hearings on nominations to the Supreme Court and the Justice Department. A former state prosecutor, he also established his panel's first subcommittee on human rights and is an avid advocate for a worldwide ban on land mines.