Shriver backs Obama, Schwarzenegger for McCain

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California first lady Maria Shriver, a member of the Kennedy clan, endorsed Democratic Sen. Barack Obama for U.S. president on Sunday, days after her husband, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, backed Republican John McCain.

“I thought, if Barack Obama were a state, he’d be California,’’ Shriver told the crowd jamming an Obama rally at the University of California at Los Angeles. “I mean think about it. Diverse. Open. Smart. Independent. Bucks tradition. Innovative. Inspiring. Dreamer. Leader.”

Obama, an Illinois senator, is running neck and neck with New York Sen. Hillary Clinton days before Super Tuesday, in which California and more than 20 other states hold primaries and caucuses to nominate Democratic and Republican candidates for the November presidential election.

On the Republican side, front-runner McCain’s closest rival is former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Shriver was flanked at the rally by her cousin Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of former President John F. Kennedy, and television talk-show star Oprah Winfrey.

Caroline Kennedy and Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, the brother of the slain president, have also backed Obama.

Schwarzenegger has endorsed John McCain, the moderate Republican senator. His primary challenger for the Republican nomination is former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

(Additional reporting by JoAnne Allen in Washington)

Writing by Peter Henderson in Los Angeles: Editing by Peter Cooney