Ted Kennedy Endorses Obama

1201531714Tough few days for Sen. Hillary Clinton. On Saturday, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama won the South Carolina primary by a comfortable margin.

Now, reports have come out that Obama is about to pick up one of the biggest endorsements — if not the biggest endorsement — in the Democratic Party. Today, Sen. Edward Kennedy will finally choose sides and support Obama.

The Clintons probably didn’t care much about losing Sen. John Kerry and Gov. Deval Patrick, both of whom have endorsed Obama. Watching Kennedy embrace Obama, though, will be tough to swallow.

Kennedy, who was a staunch supporter of Bill Clinton during his time in the White House, has been critical of the former president’s campaign trail tactics in recent weeks. According to The New York Times, the relationship has become strained.

He and former President Bill Clinton had a heated telephone exchange earlier this month over what Mr. Kennedy considered misleading statements by Mr. Clinton about Mr. Obama, as well as his injection of race into the campaign.

Mr. Kennedy called Mr. Clinton Sunday to tell him of his decision.

First, that must have been a pleasant phone call. Hey, Bubba, you and your woman can bite it. Second, it’s interesting that Kennedy called Bill and not Hillary.

So what does this mean for the race to the Democratic nomination? Given the back-and-forth jockeying between Obama and Clinton, given that it’s been such a crazy campaign, it’s hard to say this makes Obama the frontrunner. But it sure isn’t good for Clinton — that much is plain. The timing alone couldn’t be worse for Clinton: She’s set to campaign in Springfield, then make her way to Boston for a fundraiser.

The coveted endorsement is a huge blow to Clinton, who is both a senatorial colleague and a friend of the Kennedy family. In a campaign where Clinton has trumpeted her experience over Obama’s call for hope and change, the endorsement by one of the most experienced and respected Democrats in the Senate is a particularly dramatic coup for Obama.

While political endorsements generally have a limited impact on voting, Kennedy’s backing takes on a potent symbolic quality that reaches far beyond his individual support. With a long personal and family history defined by civil rights and a litany of traditional Democratic issues, Kennedy carries the weight of an entire liberal institution.

Hey, cheer up, Clinton supporters. It’s not all bad news. Maybe you didn’t get Teddy K’s endorsement, but at least these guys are behind you. Almost the same thing.