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Bill Clinton to join his wife on the campaign trail

Celeste Katz and Helen Kennedy
New York Daily News (MCT)

NEW YORK - Sen. Hillary Clinton won't come alone to this weekend's Alabama showdown with Barack Obama for black votes: Show-stealing husband Bill Clinton is riding to her aid.

The popular former president's first campaign appearance with his wife couldn't come at a more strategic moment: Obama is keynoting Sunday's civil rights commemoration in Selma, Ala.

At churches just moments away from each other, Sen. Clinton and Obama will give nearly simultaneous speeches.

The Clintons and Obama will then join a symbolic march over the Edmund Pettus bridge, where state troopers beat civil rights activists in 1965.

At the end of the march, the former president will be inducted into the Voting Rights Hall of Fame, possibly stealing more of Obama's thunder.

Sen. Clinton's announcement that her husband is headed to Selma comes as polls show her losing ground to Obama among black voters, who have traditionally held the Clintons in high esteem.

The former president "is a tremendous piece of political artillery for Sen. Clinton," said veteran Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf. "Alabama is not just about Alabama - it's about African-American voting patterns in the South."

"There is no condition under which Bill Clinton would not be received with round applause by African-Americans in this country," Sheinkopf added. "It's a very good use of him."

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said only, "The more people who show up, the better."

Earlier, Obama defended GOP presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain against Democrats for saying American lives were "wasted" in Iraq.

Obama fielded criticism for the same gaffe last month.

"John McCain and I may have disagreements," Obama said of the Arizona senator, a Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war. "The one area that I don't think he can be questioned is his dedication to American troops."

The Democratic National Committee demanded an apology from McCain, who quickly issued a statement saying he regretted using the term.

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