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Kucinich urges supporters to back Obama...

From NBC's Mark Murray and Lauren Appelbaum
...if he doesn't meet the 15% threshold in Thursday's Iowa caucuses. Kucinich made a similar endorsement of Edwards back in 2004, and that (among many other things) helped Edwards finish second in Iowa that year. "This is obviously an 'Iowa-only' recommendation, as Sen. Obama and I are competing in the New Hampshire primary next Tuesday where I want to be the first choice of New Hampshire voters," Kucinich said in a statement."

"I hope Iowans will caucus for me as their first choice this Thursday, because of my singular positions on the war, on health care, and trade. This is an opportunity for people to stand up for themselves. But in those caucus locations where my support doesn't reach the necessary threshold, I strongly encourage all of my supporters to make Barack Obama their second choice. Sen. Obama and I have one thing in common: Change."

*** UPDATE *** Just several minutes before we received this statement, NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan received this one from Obama's New Hampshire spokesman: "The voters of New Hampshire deserve to hear all the Democratic candidates' views on who can best lead America in a fundamentally new direction, and that's why I urge these networks to allow full participation in this week's debate." As it has been reported, Kucinich -- due to ABC's requirements of either finishing in the top four in Iowa or receiving 5% in NH and national polls -- will likely be excluded from this weekend's New Hampshire debate.

*** UPDATE II *** And now Obama has issued this statement: "I have a lot of respect for Congressman Kucinich, and I'm honored that he has done this because we both believe deeply in the need for fundamental change."

More: "He and I have been fighting for a number of the same priorities -- including an end to the war in Iraq that we both opposed from the start, reforming Washington and creating a better life for America's working families. I encourage all Iowans to take part in the caucuses this Thursday – not because it will be good for any one candidate, but because it will be good for our party and the future of our country."