Monday, January 28, 2008

When American University is where it's at

3 Kennedys and Barack Obama at American University. Photo credit: Erin Fitzpatrick

Obviously, as an AU student, I always think American University is where it's at. But it's never more so than when politicians of the caliber and fame of Barack Obama and Ted Kennedy come to campus.

If you're wondering why Barack Obama was at AU as opposed to one of the other, better-known DC universities, it was hardly a coincidence. Please note the well-known commencement speech on peace that John F. Kennedy gave at American University in 1963, approximately 6 months before he was killed. Why is the JFK connection relevant, you ask?

Because today, the eyes of at least the country's politicos were on American University as Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, and Sen. Ted Kennedy all gave speeches endorsing presidential candidate Barack Obama. It's potentially a very important event for the Obama campaign, given the name recognition and influence of the politically elite Kennedys.

Of particular importance is the endorsement of Ted Kennedy, the patriarch of the Kennedy clan, one of the longest-serving and most respected members of the Senate. His endorsement is somewhat unexpected, given the longstanding friendship between the Kennedys and the Clintons, and is a bit of a slap on the hand to the Clinton campaign. Sen. Kennedy was originally not intending to endorse any candidate, but reportedly the negativity of the Clinton campaign-- particularly former President Bill Clinton (campaigning on his wife's behalf)-- caused him to change his mind.

It is difficult to say what kind of impact this will have on Obama's campaign. On the one hand, not everyone likes or respects the Kennedys. They're infamous as well as famous, known for controversial things and not always upright actions. Ted Kennedy's support in particular may turn off some voters who don't like the association of Obama with the Kennedys. On the other hand, Obama now has a very influential member of the Democratic establishment on his side, as well as endorsements from other leaders of the Massachusetts Democratic establishment-- namely Governor Deval Patrick and Senator John Kerry. This could potentially give him a boost going into the 22 primaries that will take place on Super Tuesday-- most especially, in delegate-rich Massachusetts. Certainly that's what the Obama campaign is hoping will happen-- that the combination of the South Carolina blowout victory and the power of the Kennedy endorsements will skyrocket their numbers in more of the Super Tuesday states. We be eagerly watching to find out what happens on February 5-- 8 days and counting.

Further reading:
CNN: Kennedy: 'It's time now for Barack Obama.'
NY Times: Kennedy Calls Obama 'New Generation of Leadership'
Washington Post: Kennedy Endorsement Gives Obama Key Boost
The AU Eagle: Obama to Hold Rally in Bender
BBC: Kennedy Backs Obama 'For Change'
The Guardian: 'I Feel Change in the Air' Says Kennedy of Obama
MSNBC: Sen. Kennedy Endorses Barack Obama

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