Russell Simmons Explains Obama Endorsement

Hip-Hop mogul Russell Simmons has officially come out to endorse Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

Despite a longstanding relationship with Obama's rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Simmons cited public reaction and support for Obama's message of change as one of the reasons behind being "compelled by my own personal conscience" to support the Chicago senator.

"During the last nine months, I have closely observed the presidential campaigns, analyzed the issues and platforms of the major candidates, and have had substantive discussions with Senator Clinton and Senator Obama," he said. "From the sidelines of the primaries and debates, I have been particularly inspired by the fact that Senator Obama has built an unprecedented, national movement comprised of people from all ethnic, racial, political, social and economic backgrounds."

Simmons' endorsement is the latest achievement for Obama, who is in a dead heat with Clinton leading into to today’s (March 4) primaries and caucuses in Texas and Ohio.

The race for the Democratic nomination has drawn interest across the country from young voters, who have turned out in force to vote.

Obama's upward swing was briefly overshadowed last week after the senator condemned Nation of Islam leader Min. Louis Farrakhan during a presidential debate in Ohio.

When asked about the Farrakhan's support for his campaign, Obama stated that while he and Farrakhan live in Chicago, he denounced the minister's past anti-Semitic remarks and rejects his support.

Despite Obama's stance, Farrakhan, who is a close associate of Simmons’, urged his followers to continue to support Obama.

"Those who have been supporting Sen. Barack Obama should not allow what was said during the Feb. 26 presidential debate to lessen their support for his campaign," the minister said in a statement. "This is simply mischief making intended to hurt Mr. Obama politically."

In other Simmons news, the rap mogul will be on hand for his Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation's Art for Life Miami Beach gala.

The event, which will take place April 5 at JR and Loren Ridinger's waterfront estate, Casa de Suenos, will be hosted by actress Nia Long and honor Grammy Award-winning singer John Legend, real estate developer, R. Donahue Peebles and others for their outstanding contribution to their community.

Simmons will be joined by fellow mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs and Danny Simmons for the event.