The effects of Barack Obama’s blowout win in South Carolina are still being felt heading into Super Tuesday. They certainly made an effect on Ted Kennedy, who gave his endorsement to Obama today. The tide might be turning for Obama in theory, but even with Kennedy’s endorsement, he still has a long way to go against Hillary Clinton. According to the Los Angeles Times, Obama still trails Clinton in many Super Tuesday states. Clinton holds a big lead in the all important California primary, and key states like New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have heavy Clinton support. Kennedy’s name is a big one, but the Kennedy mystique hasn’t been a key part of the Democratic party for some time. Kennedy is the old guard of the party, and it is questionable whether his pull is big enough to give Obama the larger boost he needs.
However, Kennedy’s endorsement could be symptomatic of a recurring Clinton problem. In South Carolina, the attacks from the Clinton camp played a part in the large margin of their defeat. According to the New York Times, Kennedy had some words with Bill Clinton about the level of his attacks on Obama in the past month. The Clinton attacks are said to be a deciding factor in why Kennedy went for Obama, just as they were key to Clinton’s poor showing in South Carolina. The Times says that Kennedy plans to campaign “aggressively” for Obama. So if the Kennedy name does have some pull after all, Kennedy seems ready to put the full force of his power out there for Obama. Any extra support that could close the gap with Clinton will surely be welcomed by Obama.
The issue of endorsements has already played a key part in the campaign. In New Jersey alone, Clinton has support from Governor John Corzine, Senator Bob Menendez, and several U.S Representatives. Obama claims support from Senator Bill Bradley and several state senators and mayors, which has helped him cut Clinton’s lead in New Jersey. Obama received an endorsement from John Kerry, but gained bigger headlines late in 2007 when Oprah Winfrey gave him her endorsement. A poll by the Pew Research Center found that 69% of responders were not affected by the endorsement, but 60% said that the endorsement would help Obama’s campaign, given Oprah’s power.
Celebrity endorsements are a tricky thing to navigate. They can give a candidate a boost with their fan base, or it can backfire and seem comedic. Mike Huckabee got a few laughs from late night comics when action star Chuck Norris was seen at his victory party in Iowa. However, Norris is working to raise $10 million for Huckabee, according to the Houston Chronicle. Obama has help not only from Oprah, but from stars like Will Smith, George Clooney, and Jamie Foxx. Even Toni Morrison, the Nobel Prize-winning author who labeled Bill Clinton as “the first black president” has endorsed Obama. In her corner, Clinton has Barbra Streisand, Rob Reiner, and young TV stars American Ferrera and Amber Tamblyn.
Obama has got the hottest celebrities in his corner, and some important political figures from the old guard of the Democratic Party. However, since Clinton continues to lead in polls for Super Tuesday, it appears the effect of these endorsements hasn’t done much yet. But there is still time for Obama’s big supporters to go on the campaign with him, spread Obama’s message among their bases, and take advantage of Clinton’s recent missteps. Clinton and her camp already have their established supporters, and likely do not need any more big names to win the primary. What they need to do instead is make sure no more undecided names, or former Clinton supporters, turn to the Obama camp before next week.
LA Times- “Super Tuesday looks close for Democrats” www.latimes.com/news/printedition/front/la-na-supertues28jan28,1,5423781.story
New York Times- “Kennedy Chooses Obama, Spurning Pleas by Clintons” www.nytimes.com/2008/01/28/us/politics/28kennedy.html
NorthJersey.com- “Political endorsements with clout” www.northjersey.com/news/njpolitics/14461582.html
The Pew Research Center- “The Oprah Factor and Campaign 2008” people-press.org/reports/display.php3
Houston Chronicle- “Candidates hope celebrities bring off the clouds, cash” www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/5467571.html
Washington Post- “Small Rezko Shadow on Big Endorsement Day for Obama” blog.washingtonpost.com/the-trail/2008/01/28/small_rezko_shadow_on_big_endo.html