Senator Barack Obama went fishing for endorsements and landed the equivalent of a thirty-five pound Cape Cod striper. Senator Ted Kennedy has decided to endorse Obama, the big winner in Saturday’s Democratic primary in South Carolina. This is big: Kennedy’s titanic political figure casts a huge shadow over Democratic Party politics and the endorsement will translate into increased interest in Obama among Latino groups, labor unions and liberal stalwarts, some of Kennedy’s biggest supporters. The $64,000 question, of course, is whether it will actually translate into enough votes. The conventional wisdom says no, but this election seems determined to defy the conventional wisdom. Kennedy usually sits out the primaries, so why is he doing this now? His associates told the New York Times that "Mr. Kennedy was upset over what he saw as attempts by the Clinton campaign to highlight Mr. Obama’s race and by what he viewed as distortions of Mr. Obama’s statements and record." I also suspect that Kennedy thinks that helping to elect the nation’s first African-American president might be a fitting capstone to a career dedicated to the cause of civil rights. What is also interesting is that the normally unified Kennedy clan is splitting its endorsements, mirroring the division within the Democratic Party itself. Three of Robert Kennedy’s children, Robert, Jr., Kerry and Kathleen are aligned with the Clintons. But the Kennedy family is famously hierarchical and Ted and Caroline (the late president’s daughter who endorsed Obama
this weekend) reign atop the totem, so the prize of the Kennedy imprimatur goes to Obama.