On the trail: Democratic endorements and the fight for GOP conservatives

Democrats: Barack Obama got the unexpected endorsement of California's First Lady Maria Shriver today, yet another member of the Kennedy clan. There had been no prior announcements, and Maria just showed up at today's Obama rally in California along with Caroline Kennedy and Oprah. She announced she had just decided to jump in that morning. "Think about it: diverse, open, smart, independent, bucks tradition, innovative, inspiring, dreamer, leader."

There are two schools of thought about this endorsement. There is no question that it is one more boost to Obama's chances in California. The Senator has been blanketing the local press with his surrogates and especially with the Kennedys, and the fun storyline of the gubernatorial couple finding itself divided between McCain and Obama is one that California media will run with over the next day, giving Obama some helpful publicity.

On the other hand, how much will Shriver really help among registered Democrats, who probably associate her now more with the Republican Governor than with the Kennedy heritage. And to liberals -- and former Edwards backers -- that are trying to make up their mind between Obama and Clinton, this is maybe too uncomfortable a reminder that a lot of Obama's strength is coming from independents rather than party members.

An even stranger storyline developed today around the non-endorsement of Bill Richardson. We knew that Bill Clinton and Bill Richardson were planning on watching the Super Bowl together tonight. But besides the fact that this is a bizarre use of time 36 hours from polls opening, there was no other indication that Richardson was planning a Clinton endorsement. If anything, the buzz at the beginning of the week pointed to the possibility of Richardson heading Obama's way. But MyDD caught this strange story that ran on NPR for a few hours today that was reporting a Richardson endorsement of Clinton as if it had already happened. NPR ended up taking the story down, so it appears that Richardson will not be endorsing prior to Super Tuesday, making the New Mexico primary even more of a question mark.

Republicans: Mitt Romney has been holding fire for weeks now, and is mostly giving John McCain a free pass to the Republican nomination. With no contrast or attack ads running on Super Tuesday TV and minimal negative mailers, Romney appears to have given up on the idea of derailing McCain by raising hell about the Senator's conservative apostasies. But he is staying tough in robocalls, just as he did in the final days of Florida. A new robocall is being blasted out in states like California, a closed primary where Romney needs to do well, and it is a recording of former Senator Rick Santorum, a figure of the social conservative movement who was defeated in 2006.

In this call, Santorum says, "As Republican leader in the U.S. Senate, I worked hard to stop the democrats and help pass a conservative agenda. A few senators like John McCain stood in our way." He also goes on to refer to McCain's "temperament," a veiled reference to McCain's reputation as having a fiery temper and boiled up rage. Romney's only hope heading to Tuesday's vote is to convince conservatives that McCain is not one of them, and he is hoping to do so with the constant McCain pounding that many conservative pundits (Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh) are now engaged in.

The Politico has the answer of John Weaver, McCain's former strategist, which is particularly harsh on Santorum: "When Santorum was begging for John, he never raised a word about any concern about McCain. In fact, he praised him. Perhaps he was desperate then. Perhaps he is desperate now." McCain knows that California in particular will be key and that it needs to hold on to the conservative troops for a few more days; if Romney wins in that big a closed primary, some conservatives could agitate the fact that McCain is too weak among the party's base (though he won Florida, a closed primary, rather convincingly).

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  • Is Romney giving McCain a "free pass" or is he just letting Limbaugh, Coulter, Santorum, et. al. do the attacking while he tries to stand above the fray? Given that likability has never been Romney's strength, this may be the best tactic for him -- though it's still a long shot.

    By Anonymous Chicago Joe, At 04 February, 2008 11:33  

  • You forget, Maria Shriver is VERY good friends with Oprah Winfrey. Her support is hardly surprising.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 04 February, 2008 13:36  

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