Friday, February 01, 2008

An Endorsement's Impact

Since this week's endorsement of Barack Obama by the Kennedys, pundits have been trying to interpret the implications. Here are a couple excerpts from vastly different perspectives:

From the right, David Brooks: The Kennedy endorsements will help among working-class Democrats, Catholics and the millions of Americans who have followed Caroline’s path to maturity. Furthermore, here was Senator Kennedy, the consummate legislative craftsman, vouching for the fact that Obama is ready to be president on Day One. But the event was striking for another reason, having to do with the confluence of themes and generations. The Kennedys and Obama hit the same contrasts again and again in their speeches: the high road versus the low road; inspiration versus calculation; future versus the past; and most of all, service versus selfishness.

“With Barack Obama, we will turn the page on the old politics of misrepresentation and distortion,” Senator Kennedy declared. “With Barack Obama, there is a new national leader who has given America a different kind of campaign - a campaign not just about himself, but about all of us,” he said. The Clintons started this fight, and in his grand and graceful way, Kennedy returned the volley with added speed.

From the left, E.J. Dionne: The South Carolina struggle may have shifted the balance of risk in a way that favors Obama. His candidacy has created excitement that Clinton's has not, and that was palpable at yesterday's rally in Washington, where several members of the Kennedy family offered him their political blessing. As the Kennedy endorsements underscored, Obama has the potential of mobilizing new energies among African Americans, and among young and well-educated voters generally. Ted Kennedy's campaigning could also bolster Obama's standing among Latinos, who have favored Clinton.

In the meantime, Democrats worry far more than they did even two weeks ago that Hillary Clinton will have great difficulty in escaping the negative aspects of her husband's legacy. History teaches that writing off any Clinton is a mistake. But South Carolina has placed large obstacles in Hillary Clinton's way. And Barack Obama, stuck just days ago in a nasty tit-for-tat with the Clintons, has been granted a chance to return to the transformational style of campaigning that was always his best path to victory.

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