The New Mexico Governor and former democratic presidential nominee Bill Richardson endorsed Barack Obama earlier today. He called him a “once-in-a-lifetime leader” who could unite the nation. Although the Clinton campaign is downplaying it, I think this is a big morale booster to the Obama campaign.
This has been a narrow race and we have seen that endorsements have helped both candidates to a fair extent – Kennedy’s endorsements helped Obama narrow Clinton’s lead in Massachusetts, Governor Jim Doyle’s endorsement helped Obama win Wisconsin, Governor Strickland’s endorsement helped Hillary sweep Ohio. And the importance of endorsements is evident from the extent to which both the candidates have been courting the super-delegates for their support.
Hillary Clinton won states like New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Texas (in popular votes) and California riding on a strong backing from Hispanics. Polls from CNN indicate that she out-polled Obama by a ratio of 2:1 amongst Hispanics. Now Richardson, who as a presidential candidate had solid support from Hispanics will likely narrow the ratio of Hispanic supporters in Obama’s favor with this endorsement. But most states with a Hispanic majority have already had their primaries. Florida which has a sizable Hispanic population could make a positive difference for Obama only if the Democrats opt for a re-vote there – but the prospects of a re-vote looks increasingly unlikely.
So this endorsement cannot change the equation for the Hispanic votes in the Democratic Primary. But if Obama becomes the Democratic presidential nominee, he will be looked at very favorably by the Hispanics.
But it is my assessment that with the general population, the endorsement will help Obama. Obama’s campaign has lost its momentum lately and opinion polls (CNN and Fox) have indicated widening margins between Clinton and Obama in the major upcoming primaries in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. So any gain from this endorsement will help – the endorsement could orient the undecided voters towards Obama. Richardson who held office under Bill Clinton as Secretary of Energy and UN ambassador is reported to have close ties with the Clintons. The fact that despite this, he chose to make this endorsement, that too at a time when Obama is mired in a controversy created by Jeremiah Wright (the pastor of Obama’s church) will be a big positive for Obama and will likely increase Obama’s rating with the public.
So no matter what the Clinton’s camp says to take the attention away from Richardson’s bounty to Obama, it is plain that the endorsement has projected Obama in a better light and given his campaign a shot in the arm.