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Maryland Governor Endorses Hillary Clinton

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley endorsed New York Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign Wednesday, saying she was a strong leader who understands homeland security issues and can reverse "a leadership deficit" in the country.

"The security of our nation might very well depend on the speed with which our next president can close that leadership deficit at home and also in the international arena," O'Malley said.

Clinton, speaking waterside at the Annapolis City Dock with sailboats and the State House as backdrops, focused on the efforts to bring the nation's troops home from Iraq and criticized President Bush for failing to outline a clear plan for the war.

"It is imperative that he begin to extricate us from Iraq before he leaves office. But if he does not, when I am president, I will," Clinton said.

Clinton has joined Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., on legislation to repeal congressional authorization for the war and require Bush to seek new authority from Congress to extend the conflict beyond Oct. 11, 2007 — five years after the original permission was given.

She said it's no longer adequate for the White House to keep saying, "Just stay the course and keep going. We're hoping something good will happen."

"That is not a policy, so that is why I think we need as broad a debate as possible on the range of issues that the Iraq war presents to our country," Clinton said.

Clinton also has picked up the endorsement of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who plans to formally announce his support on Monday.

In Annapolis, Clinton underscored that she wanted to focus on building support for the nation abroad.

"You've got to have those open lines of dialogue across the world," she said.

Clinton praised O'Malley for signing the nation's first statewide living wage law Tuesday, a measure that requires state contractors to pay at least $8.50 to workers and $11.30 in parts of Maryland such as Baltimore and the Washington suburbs where it is more expensive to live.

She said the nation's next president will need to convince Americans that political leaders can make good policies to improve their lives.

"There's a feeling that somehow the everyday challenges that people confront are not being seen by their government in Washington, that in effect, people feel invisible," Clinton said.

Clinton also spoke about her goals of improving access to health care and developing sustainable independent energy.

"We can't close the leadership deficit if we don't set goals for ourselves, so I want to set a goal of quality affordable health care for every single American, and this time we're going to get it done," she said.

Maryland is a strong Democratic state. Last year, O'Malley defeated Republican Robert Ehrlich, who was the first GOP governor of Maryland in 36 years. Clinton came to Maryland during that campaign to help raise money and build enthusiasm for O'Malley and other Maryland candidates. Former President Clinton appeared in a commercial supporting O'Malley, who became governor in January.

O'Malley, who was mayor of Baltimore before being elected governor in November, will serve as the chairman of Clinton's Maryland campaign.

Maryland Republicans accused O'Malley of jumping on the bandwagon of the Democratic front-runner.

"Four years ago, O'Malley jumped on the bandwagon of front-runner Howard Dean, and he is doing the same with the front-runner this time around," said Maryland Republican Party Chairman James Pelura.

When a reporter asked Clinton whether there would be a place for the governor in her administration, O'Malley jokingly advised the former first lady to skip the question.

"Don't answer that question," O'Malley said. "Say 'next question."'

Clinton replied: "Well, let me say that I am a big fan of Gov. O'Malley."

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