NEW YORK — Saying that Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin "scares the hell out of me," former New York Mayor Ed Koch endorsed fellow Democrat Barack Obama on Tuesday.

In 2004, Koch backed President Bush for re-election saying the Republican incumbent was better equipped to combat "Islamic terrorists" than Democratic candidate John Kerry.

Koch, who was mayor of New York from 1977 to 1989, said he has concluded that the country would be safer in the hands of Obama and running mate Joe Biden than presidential candidate John McCain and Palin.

"Protecting and defending the U.S. means more than defending us from foreign attacks," Koch said, citing such concerns as civil liberties, abortion rights, gay rights and access to health insurance.

Koch said he is particularly troubled by Palin's record in those areas.

"It's Palin primarily," he said. "She scares the hell out of me."

Koch called Palin a "plucky, exciting candidate" but also said: "If the vice president were ever called on to lead the country ... , there is no question in my mind that the experience and demonstrated judgment of Joe Biden is superior to that of Sarah Palin."