Senator Edward Kennedy, abandoning old friend and ally Bill Clinton and wife Hillary , is set to endorse Barack Obama’s presidential bid. The recognized patriarch of America’s most prominent political family has signified his intention to campaign actively for Obama in what is seen by some as a major setback to the Clinton campaign.
But honestly, apart from his home state of Massachusetts, how much does an endorsement from Ted Kennedy still count ? To be sure, the illustrious Kennedy name still carries a lot of clout in Democratic circles. And Ted Kennedy has been a major figure in party politics for over four decades. But the Man-Who-Would-Never-Be-President, in his twilight years, has lost a lot of his charisma. He waffled on whether to remain neutral in the Democratic race, and it was only after his niece and JFK daughter, Caroline Kennedy, made a public pitch for Obama that he got on the bandwagon.
Sen. Kennedy can firm up support for Obama from the unions and Hispanics, his traditional political base, but the days when the Kennedy name alone could swing huge voter blocks are long gone. Thanks, in large part, to a long history of scandal that has kept the Kennedy name in the front papers of tabloids for years. A lot of the credit goes to Ted Kennedy, at times a tragic, even noble, figure and at others a complete and utter buffoon. As famously observed by the late journalist Michael Kelly:
“Edward Kennedy was once the handsomest of the handsome Kennedy boys, with a proudly jutting chin, a Nelson Eddy jaw and Cupid’s-bow lips under a thatch of chestnut hair. When he is dieting and on the wagon, there is a glimpse of that still, which makes it all the harder to see him as he more often is. There is a great desire to remember him as we remember his brothers.
The Kennedy brothers always perpetuated their own glorious images, but over the years the last brother has built an image–not glorious at all–of his very own. For his hard public drinking, his obsessive public womanizing and his frequent boorishness, he has become a late-century legend, Teddy the Terrible, the Kennedy Untrammeled. . In Washington, it sometimes seems as if everyone knows someone who has slept with Kennedy, been invited to sleep with Kennedy, seen Kennedy drunk, been insulted by Kennedy.”
That said, Hillary still has her work cut out for her. She is ahead in the polls in almost all the big states. But that lead can disappear rapidly, as shown by her defeat in South Carolina. Hillary was ahead in South Carolina polls as recently as early December, and she got whipped bad.
And now Al Gore is reportedly set to declare for Obama very soon.
Caroline Kennedy explains why Obama will be a president as inspiring as JFK.
A possible explanation why Obama lost in Massachusetts (despite the Kennedy endorsements) is the so-called gender gap, for which Ted Kennedy is partly responsible for.