Fired Up, Teddy to Go

A campaign blog.
Jan. 28 2008 12:55 AM

Fired Up, Teddy to Go

Over the weekend, Barack Obama got two Kennedys (Kennedies?) for the price of one.

First, Caroline Kennedy, daughter of JFK, penned a gushing op-ed in the New York Times endorsing the senator from Illinois. Then on Sunday, the campaign announced that Sen. Ted Kennedy will be stumping for Obama this week.

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Time 's Mark Halperin offers some compelling reasons why this endorsement, unlike most, actually matters. (Kennedy commands respect among demographics Obama doesn’t—namely Hispanics, working-class Dems, and union households.)

I’ll add one more: This is a risk for Kennedy. As an all-round eminence gris with a gift for negotiating compromises, he would play a pivotal role in the relationship between a Democratic White House and the Senate. As chairman of the health, education, labor, and pensions committee, he sits at the center of any, well, health-care, education, or labor overhauls undertaken by a potential Clinton administration. Maintaining good relations is in his interest, and neutrality would have been a perfectly acceptable stance. That he rebuffed overtures from Bill Clinton makes the endorsement all the more a repudiation of his wife’s candidacy.

It doesn’t hurt that the endorsement comes after the most decisive primary win so far. Nor that Obama’s speech Saturday night drew JFK comparisons galore. Plus, don’t forget about superdelegates. Bill Clinton has reportedly been working the phones to woo party players who will have votes at the national convention in August. Kennedy no doubt has pull in this area, too. And if it comes down to a brokered convention—that hellish scenario you're secretly hoping for—Obama can use all the help he can get.

Naturally, Clinton's team greeted the news with news (sort of) of their own. On Sunday, the campaign fired off a competing statement from Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a former lieutenant governor of Maryland and daughter of Bobby Kennedy, pointing out her own support for Clinton as well as that of her brother Bobby and her sister Kerry. But if there were a formula to measure respective Kennedy influence, it would probably looking something like:

Bobby Jr. + Kerry + Kathleen + Caroline = Teddy

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.