OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Presidential hopeful Barack Obama won the endorsement Saturday of U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, a popular moderate Democrat in largely Republican Nebraska who said he believes Obama has ability to bridge the partisan divide and to carry Democratic candidates across the country to victory in 2008.
Nelson, pledging his support for his Illinois colleague, said Obama has "the greatest potential to ending the bitterness and poisonous atmosphere in Washington."
He said Obama's victory speech after winning Iowa's Jan. 3 caucuses was an effort to reach out to Democrats, independents and "enlightened Republicans," and that Obama's campaign epitomizes what Nelson has tried to do in Washington.
Obama is the "prototype of what we need today," said Nelson, who served two terms as governor.
Nebraska Democrats will choose a presidential candidate Feb. 9, four days after 24 states hold contests on Feb. 5.
Nelson often votes with his GOP colleagues, and in 2005 won praise from President Bush, who called Nelson "a man with whom I can work."
With Republican Sen. John McCain, Nelson was one of the founding members of the so-called "Gang of 14," a group of seven Republicans and seven Democrats that averted a Senate showdown over President Bush's lower-court judicial nominees in 2006.
Nelson was elected governor in 1990 and re-elected in 1994. He won his Senate seat in 2000 and easily won re-election in 2006.
Republicans hold all statewide offices in Nebraska except Nelson's seat, and enjoy a heavy majority among voters.