Now the real battle for US presidency begins

WASHINGTON - The battle for the White House between the top Republican and Democratic contenders was set to begin in earnest yesterday after Democrat Hillary Clinton formally bowed out of the race and threw her support behind Barack Obama.

WASHINGTON - The battle for the White House between the top Republican and Democratic contenders was set to begin in earnest yesterday after Democrat Hillary Clinton formally bowed out of the race and threw her support behind Barack Obama.

Clinton's quest to be the first woman commander-in-chief ended with her imploring her backers to vote for Obama, saying he was a man of "grace and grit" who was, like her, tilting at history after living the American dream.

"The way to continue our fight now, to accomplish the goals for which we stand, is to take our energy, our passions, our strengths and do all we can to help elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States," Clinton said, basking in the devotion of about 2000 supporters at a raucous rally.

"Today, as I suspend my campaign, I congratulate him on the victory he has won and the extraordinary race he has run," said Clinton, who angered some Democrats with her defiant tone after Obama clinched the nomination.

Obama welcomed her endorsement and paid tribute to her "valiant and historic" campaign.

"No one knows better than Senator Clinton how desperately America and the American people need change, and I know she will continue to be in the forefront of that battle this fall and for years to come," Obama said.

Obama now faces a tough fight against Republican presumptive nominee John McCain after the turbulent Democratic contest which has torn at party unity. But the Los Angeles Times noted in an editorial yesterday the two candidates actually have more in common than they are willing to let on.

"Surprisingly, given McCain's reputation as a hawk and Obama's as a peacenik, they don't differ much in their ideas about how best to protect the country," the paper said. - Sapa-AFP

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