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Obama, Mfume and Cardin

Sen. Barack Obama, a rising star in the Democratic party, stopped by the University of Maryland yesterday to pump up a crowd of loyalists on behalf of Senate candidate Benjamin Cardin.

But Obama also had a warm personal introduction for Cardin's former Democratic primary opponent Kweisi Mfume.

Standing on stage with both men, Obama recalled his appreciation for Mfume when the former congressman first entered politics.

Obama remembered thinking, "He talks so good and he's smart. He is smooth and his name is as hard to pronounce as mine. I thought I've got some hope. He gave me hope. He gave me inspiration, just like he gave Maryland inspiration."

Mfume, appearing publicly with Cardin for the first time since the primary, gave the nominee a big hug and delivered the endorsement he'd been seeking.

"I know what he's done in the past, and I know what he'll do in the future. He's going to make a damn good senator," Mfume said.

But Mfume cautioned that the party had much work to do to energize black voters. The Democratic nominees for the top four jobs, he noted, look no different than the ticket 50 years ago.

"We need women in leadership positions in the state. We've got to find a way that African Americans and other minorities are represented statewide in office," he said, standing with Obama and other officials.

Cardin, who is white, faces Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R) in the general election Nov. 7 to succeed Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D), who is retiring.

In 2002, Steele became Maryland's first African American elected to statewide office and has tried to make inroads with black voters in the overwhelmingly Democratic state. He dismissed the significance of the high-profile endorsements yesterday and picked up on Mfume's theme.

"The challenge of the opportunity is to build a bridge to communities the Democratic Party has taken for granted and has, by its choice of nominee," decided to tell to wait, he said during an afternoon event in Largo. "I'm here to say, 'You don't have to wait any longer.' "

Ann Marimow

By Phyllis Jordan  |  September 28, 2006; 7:03 AM ET
 
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