Saturday, March 22, 2008

Richardson endorses Obama

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The Clinton campaign (in the form of Mark Penn, among others) is trying to downplay it, and understandably so, but make no mistake about it, Richardson's endorsement of Obama (see video below) is big. Indeed, Clinton wanted it, badly, and it does matter -- The Trail's Dan Balz says there are five ways it boosts Obama:

1) Good timing: "Richardson has ridden to Obama's rescue during what has been the roughest stretch of his candidacy."

2) Message to superdelegates: "Richardson sends a signal to superdelegates that they too should back Obama."

3) Support from a Clinton friend: "Richardson is close to both Clintons."

4) Foreign policy credibility: "Richardson implicitly helps Obama answer questions about his readiness to be commander in chief."

5) The Hispanic vote: "Richardson's support could help Obama improve his standing with Hispanic voters."

All good points.

To which I would add this: While many superdelegates remain uncommitted, that is, have yet to announce their support for either Obama or Clinton, many of the top Democrats have taken sides, including Bill Clinton (of course), John Kerry, and Ted Kennedy. Prior to his endorsement, Richardson was one of the leading uncommitted Democrats, along with Al Gore and John Edwards. Gore likely won't endorse and Edwards seems to continue to be unsure of what to do. After Edwards, who was third behind Obama and Clinton when he dropped out of the race, the contenders for the nomination were Richardson, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, and Dennis Kucinich. Dodd has endorsed Obama, and Biden and Kucinich are uncommitted (though Kucinich may be leaning to Obama). Richardson's endorsement is far more significant than Dodd's, given points 1-5 above, and would be far more significant than a Biden endorsement, also given points 1-5 above, including foreign policy credibility (Richardson's is, I would argue, more significant than Biden's).

All of which is to say that, if Gore and Edwards remain uncommitted, Richardson's was pretty much the biggest endorsement left. So, if I may:

6) A big name.

7) Positive media coverage.

It has indeed been a difficult week -- a difficult few weeks -- for Obama. But his brilliant speech on Tuesday was well-received, Clinton was unable to score any major points, and now, with Richardson's key endorsement, Obama could be getting just the sort of boost he needs. He has been in the lead all along, of course, but he needs a boost to get out of this period of difficulty, much of it driven by Clinton's dirty campaign, the Republican smear machine, and generally negative media coverage. (It helps to have accurate reports like this new one, from The Politico: "One big fact has largely been lost in the recent coverage of the Democratic presidential race: Hillary Rodham Clinton has virtually no chance of winning.")

John Dickerson: "The Democratic race is like a CD stuck on a scratch, just waiting for the superdelegates to give it a kick and put it back on track. Bill Richardson took his shot. Now Obama has to hope that the other superdelegates hear the music and join in."

Yes, let's hope so.

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