WASHINGTON – At the site of one of John F. Kennedy’s most famous speeches, Sen. Edward Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama Monday as a worthy heir to the martyred president and one who could restore the sense of national possibility of Camelot.
“Even in the darkest hours, I know what America can achieve,” Kennedy said. “I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it – and with Barack Obama, we can do it again.”
On a platform at American University, Obama was surrounded by two generations of Kennedys, including Caroline Kennedy, the late president’s only living child, and Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., the Massachusetts senator’s son, both of whom also spoke on behalf of Obama.
After he finished with his endorsement, Kennedy put his arms around Obama, drawing cheers from the ebullient, youthful crowd that filled the school’s arena.
“I stand here with a great deal of humility,” Obama said after the Kennedys spoke. “I know what your support means. I know the cherished place the Kennedy name holds in the hearts of the American people.”
The endorsement reinforces the themes of hope and generational change at the heart of Obama’s candidacy just as the presidential campaign becomes a truly national contest, with 22 states voting on Feb. 5.
Plans call for Kennedy to campaign for Obama beginning late in the week in California, Arizona and New Mexico. Kennedy has strong ties to Latinos, a group Obama has not done well with.
Obama also received the endorsement of Toni Morrison, the Nobel Prize-winning writer who once dubbed Bill Clinton “the first black president.”
The Kennedy endorsement is a blow to Hillary Clinton. President Bill Clinton had styled himself a successor to John Kennedy in his presidential campaign, making prominent use of a boyhood picture showing Clinton shaking hands with President Kennedy. And the Clintons had maintained a friendship with Kennedy during Clinton’s presidency, visiting Kennedy and sailing with him off Cape Cod.
But Sen. Clinton showed no disappointment at the endorsement of her rival. “We’re all proud of the people we have endorsing us,” she said in a conference call with reporters.
John Edwards, after a third-place finish in his native South Carolina over the weekend, laid out his “path to the nomination” in a memo to reporters.
The strategy banks on ad campaigns in 10 Feb. 5 states – including several of the “red” Republican-leaning states where Edwards has been pitching himself as the only Democrat with a shot to win in November – and grass-roots pushes in the dozen other states that vote on Super Tuesday. It is to be bankrolled by Internet donations the campaign says have rolled in over the last month.