Democratic US presidential hopeful Barack Obama has been endorsed by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, himself a former candidate.
Mr Richardson (R) said Mr Obama was a courageous leader
At a rally in Oregon, he praised a speech Mr Obama gave earlier this week on the issue of racial divisions.
It comes after footage of controversial comments made by Mr Obama's pastor threatened to damage his campaign.
Both Mr Obama and Hillary Clinton had sought the backing of Mr Richardson, the only Hispanic US governor.
"You are a once-in-a-lifetime leader," Mr Richardson told Mr Obama at the rally. "Above all, you will be a president who brings this nation together."
He also said that Mr Obama's speech on race was the beginning of a new dialogue.
"He understands that clearly by only bringing people together and by bridging our differences can we succeed together as Americans," Mr Richardson said.
"His words are one of a courageous thoughtful leader who understands that a house divided against itself cannot stand. And, after eight years of George W Bush, we desperately need that kind of leader."
In a statement quoted by the Associated Press he also praised Mrs Clinton as a "distinguished leader with vast experience".
The New Mexico governor served under President Bill Clinton as his energy secretary and ambassador to the UN.
He had long been tipped as a presidential contender, so it was not a surprise when he announced his candidacy in 2007.
After disappointing fourth-place finishes in both the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, however, he dropped out of the race.
Earlier this month Mr Richardson hinted at a possible Obama endorsement and revealed how the Illinois senator had helped him out during one of the candidates' televised debates.
Mr Richardson had not been concentrating during the debate and had consequently been unable to answer a question, when Mr Obama whispered to him the subject under discussion, allowing Mr Richardson to give a response without betraying his confusion.