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At Daughter's Urging, McCaskill Backs Obama

By Shailagh Murray
Sen. Barack Obama won the endorsement of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), an up-and-coming freshman who scored one of the biggest Senate upsets of the 2006 midterm election cycle, in what is now a vital Feb. 5 battleground.

McCaskill has been an enthusiastic supporter of Obama for months, sources close to the senator said, but had been reluctant to step forward earlier out of loyalty to Emily's List, the pro-choice Democratic women's group that invested in her race against former GOP Sen. James Talent. Emily's List is backing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primary. McCaskill is the second high-profile female lawmaker to announce for Obama this week, following Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano.

McCaskill's homestate is one of the hardest fought in politics, narrowly divided along partisan lines and with large constituencies of suburban, rural, black, evangelical, and college-age voters -- the ultimate electoral treasure trove. The senator's decision to support Obama underscores concerns expressed by some Democrats in hard-to-win states like Missouri, that Clinton has limited crossover appeal beyond the party faithful and limited ability to bridge the partisan divide in Washington.

"I have kind of staked a tent in the middle ground and with some frequency I ran into Barack Obama there," MacCaskill said of her Senate tenure. She called him a "once in a generation" leader and "a gust of fresh air. He is different. He is not like most of the politicians in Washington."

McCaskill called Clinton "a smart woman...a strong leader" and acknowledged that she had faced strong pressure from her women's group allies to support the former first lady, or at least stay neutral. But she added, it's"important we look forward" and said of her decision, "I feel very strongly about it." The senator said it was her 18-year-old daughter, an Obama supporter, who ultimately urged her off the fence.

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 13, 2008; 11:01 AM ET
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