Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy today announced his endorsement of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for President. In a statement reported on CNN.com, Kennedy said, “It is time again for a new generation of leadership. It is time now for Barack Obama.”
The brother of the late President John F. Kennedy had been expected in recent days to announce his support of Obama. After he made the announcement in front of a large crowd of students at American University in Washington, DC, Obama spoke to the crowd.
“I know what your support means. I know the cherished place the Kennedy family holds in the hearts of the American people,” he said. “The dream has never died … it lives on in those Americans, young and old, rich and poor, black and white, Latino and Asian and Native American, gay and straight, who are tired of a politics that divides us and want to recapture the sense of common purpose that we had when John Kennedy was president of the United States of America.”
Kennedy was the second major Democratic leader to endorse Obama in as many weeks. On January 10th, John Kerry, the Democratic nominee in 2004 and also a Senator from Massachusetts, announced that he was supporting Obama. But there is a split even in the Kennedy family.
Caroline Kennedy, daughter of John F. Kennedy, has also endorsed Obama. However, former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend issued a statement over the weekend announcing that she would support Sen. Hillary Clinton. She said her brother Bobby and sister Kerry are also supporting Clinton. All three are children of the late Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1968 while campaigning for the Presidency.
Endorsements have traditionally not had much effect on which candidate the electorate ultimately votes for. However, Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama could change that. Throughout the campaign, Clinton has held the support of key segments of the traditional Democratic base: Hispanics, labor unions, and the working class. Obama has done well with African-Americans, independents, and younger voters, but has made few inroads into Clinton’s power base, which he will need if he is to secure enough delegates for the nomination.
Kennedy’s endorsement gives Obama instant credibility with all of the groups mentioned above. Unions love Kennedy, as do traditional working class Democrats. He is a tireless campaigner, and with his legacy as the last remaining Kennedy brother always attracts huge crowds wherever he goes. Kennedy is also the only Democrat with enough stature to serve as a counter to Hillary Clinton’s chief advocate, former President Bill Clinton. And he will give Obama a huge boost in the Northeast, a region Hillary Clinton has had in a stranglehold since the campaign began.
One man’s endorsement cannot by itself deliver the nomination to a candidate, and in the end may not sway as many votes as analysts now predict. But coming on the heels of his decisive win in the South Carolina primary, Kennedy’s endorsement propels Obama toward Super Tuesday on February 5th with some serious momentum.
CNN.com, “Kennedy: ‘It’s time now for Barack Obama'”