I posited yesterday that Sen. Hillary Clinton (D., N.Y.), who lost in the Iowa caucus, won in New Hampshire in part because of geography. Clinton has greater support among the old Democratic networks of the Northeast than she does in the Midwest. Does an endorsement from Kerry -- who hails from Massachusetts -- threaten her stake in the Northeast?
The timing of the endorsement is unusual. Why wait until two days after the New Hampshire primary? Massachusetts borders New Hampshire, and the endorsement might have been enough to push Obama over the top in a close race. Instead, the endorsement came today in South Carolina -- far, far down the Eastern Seaboard. Nevertheless, the endorsement could help Obama in both Connecticut and Massachusetts. Obama already has strong support from the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick. But Kerry will not help in either New Jersey or New York, which remain strongholds for Clinton. Kerry's endorsement offers additional help to Obama's campaign. Kerry has kept in touch with much of his network from his 2004 presidential bid, including his email list and fund-raising network. Some of Kerry's fund-raisers have stayed on the sidelines in this race, waiting for a clear winner. Raising funds will be hugely important leading up to Super Tuesday, Feb. 5, when more than 20 primaries will take place. Campaign ads will supplant the retail politics of Iowa and New Hampshire.
Kerry also played the role of the establishment candidate in 2004. He upset the insurgent candidate, Howard Dean, en route to winning the Democratic nomination. The Kerry endorsement may well signal to other Democratic elites that they can abandon the Clintons. Of course, even stellar endorsements aren't always enough to clinch a win. Former Vice President Al Gore waited until a few weeks before the Iowa caucus in 2004 to endorse Dean. And Dean, you may recall, imploded shortly thereafter.