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President Obama Endorses Bill de Blasio For Mayor

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Bill de Blasio is getting support from the highest of places.

The Democratic candidate for New York City mayor is being endorsed by President Barack Obama.

"Progressive change is the centerpiece of Bill de Blasio's vision for New York City, and it's why he will be a great mayor of America's largest city," Obama said in a statement released Monday. "Whether it's ensuring pre-kindergarten is available for every four-year old, expanding after-school programs for every middle school student who wants and needs them, making affordable housing available for more New York families and preserving community hospitals, Bill's agenda for New York is marked by bold, courageous ideas that address the great challenges of our time."

De Blasio said he was "deeply honored" to receive the president's endorsement.

"If I am fortunate to earn the trust of the people of New York on November 5th, I will work every day to advance our shared value of making sure everyone has a fair shot," de Blasio said in a statement. "On health care, tax fairness or the economy, the President is no stranger to addressing big problems with big ideas and big solutions. I will emulate the example he has set, and if elected I stand eager to work with him on an urban agenda that grows prosperity for all."

Last week, de Blasio was endorsed by Bill and Hillary Clinton, former mayoral candidate and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the teacher's union.

In 2009, Obama waited until mid-October to endorse Bill Thompson. The delay -- and the lukewarm tone of the endorsement -- elicited criticism from some Democrats who felt the president should have done more to help Thompson. He lost to Mayor Michael Bloomberg that November in a race that was far closer than expected.

Although Obama has actively raised money for national Democratic campaign committees during his second term, he's mostly steered clear of endorsing individual candidates. But last month, Obama threw his support behind Cory Booker, the Democratic mayor of Newark, N.J., in his race for U.S. Senate.

De Blasio will face off against Republican mayoral nominee Joe Lhota in the general election on Nov. 5. Adolfo Carrion Jr., a former Bronx borough president running as an independent, will also be on the ballot for mayor.

Lhota, the former head of the region's transit agency, downplayed the presidential endorsement.

"I fully expected the president would be supporting Bill de Blaiso. That's not a surprise at all,'' said Lhota to reporters after speaking at a news conference outside the United Nations that was hosted by Jewish groups warning about Iran's nuclear program. De Blasio also appeared but did not cross paths with Lhota.

Meanwhile, Lhota utilized a New York Times story published Monday detailing de Blasio's stint as an activist in Nicaragua during the 1980s to illustrate the candidates' "very, very different political philosophies.''

"Actions taken with the Sandinistas, who were fighting Americans as well as capitalism, was not the right thing to do during the Cold War,'' Lhota said.

De Blasio has spoken previously about his former support for the Sandinistas, Nicaragua's left-wing political party. He did immediately respond to Lhota's criticism.

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