Friday, January 11, 2008

Obama Endorsements Continue to Pour In

A sign of a good campaign is a good public relations strategy, especially when it comes to revealing endorsements of a particular candidate. Endorsements by themselves, may not make a difference in the overall scheme of a campaign (Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean, for example, in 2004, flopped and endorsements of Barack Obama by former Senators Bill Bradley and Gary Hart in the days leading up to the New Hampshire primary produced similar results) but some endorsements do send broader messages about a particular campaign and their timing can be crucial to "change the story" in today's word of soundbytes and 24-hour news-cycles.

Since his defeat in New Hampshire, Obama has attempted to (and in many ways has) changed this narrative away from Hillary Clinton's amazing comeback. And he's done so with the support of endorsement after endorsement after endorsement, and some actually, unlike many, may be able to help transform the race.

First, the night of the New Hampshire primary, Obama was endorsed by Nevada's Service Employees International Union and the following day, he got a big get (and perhaps decisive in Nevada), with the endorsement of Nevada'a Culinary Workers Union. With Nevada moving to a caucus for the first time, and nobody quite knowing who is going to show up and participate, the huge labor and turn-out-the-vote strength these two dominant Nevada unions have is a huge boost for the Obama campaign.

Yesterday, Obama rolled out three big Congressional endorsements, with South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson, California Representative George Miller, and perhaps most importantly, John Kerry. The endorsement of Miller, who most may not know, is interesting, because the veteran Congressman is the chief confidant of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and conventional wisdom believes he would not have endorsed Obama without her blessing, which is an indirect shot at Hillary Clinton, the potential first woman Present by the first woman Speaker of the House. And the Kerry endorsement, perhaps most important for his infrastructure in key states and ability to raise money, still provides Obama with an experienced ally firmly in the Democratic establishment. Though pairing with Kerry may be a bit off-message for Obama from his change ideal (as I think Mary Matalin pointed out on television yesterday) it's still a new positive for Obama and got a lot of coverage on newscasts and in newspapers across the country.

Then today, Obama announced the endorsement of Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano. Napolitano, a two-term Democratic Governor in a red state, is one of the most prominent women in politics not named Clinton or Pelosi, and was considered as a potential running mate for John Kerry in 2004. Her endorsement of Obama will not just help him in Nevada (nearby to Napolitano's Arizona and in her home state on February 5th) but will help try to show women that it's okay not to support Hillary Clinton.

Will all these endorsements end up meaning anything in the long run? Maybe actually. The labor endorsements in Nevada may be enough to win those states, and if nothing else, the endorsements of Kerry and Napolitano have allowed Obama to continue to ride a wave of positive (and at this time of year, maybe even more importantly, free) publicity nationwide with serious political figures endorsing Obama's message of change and hope. With an election as close as this race is going to be, every bit of help and added news coverage helps.

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