Endorsements don't usually count for much. But if they're big enough and come at critical moments they can count for a lot. And this string of endorsements Obama has picked up since his narrow defeat in New Hampshire four days ago is, I believe, a major story that has not gotten the attention it deserves.
Since losing the New Hampshire primary four days ago, Obama has been endorsed by Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Gov. Janet Napolitano (D-AZ). Additionally, he's also been endorsed by Rep. Miller (D-CA), Sen. Kerry (D-MA) and Ned Lamont. But they're in a slightly different category and it's the first four I want to discuss.
The first of these came from Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) who put out word
he'd be endorsing Obama the day after New Hampshire. Johnson is a protege of former Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD). And Daschle has close ties to Obama -- a lot of operatives in the Daschle world went to Obama after 2004. So when I saw word of the endorsement I figured this was something Daschle or his former staffers had helped put together to help stabilize Obama's fortunes after the New Hampshire loss.
But now you have three others -- Nelson, Napolitano and McCaskill. Nelson and Johnson are from very red states while Napolitano and McCaskill are from swing states.
Now, there are a bunch of things you can draw from this spate of endorsements. One is that these folks don't seem worried about themselves running or having their supporters run with Obama at the top of the ticket. And these are people from either very conservative or somewhat conservative states. Despite the fact that Obama is running in some ways to the right of Clinton (at least tonally, as the candidate of unity and bipartisan reconcilation), there are still a lot of questions inevitably being asked about whether the country is 'ready' for Obama, whether that's his race, his name, his background in community organizing, his youth, etc. So these folks think America's ready; in fact, more ready than they are for Hillary.
But that isn't the biggest significance. The key is timing. You don't hit a big time politician like Hillary Clinton when she's down unless you're really against her and you're fairly confident she's not getting back up. After winning in New Hampshire, albeit narrowly and after the clobbering in Iowa, there's been a sense that Clinton may be back on track to consolidating her frontrunner status and perhaps following a modified version of the standard script in which the anointed frontrunner gets a scare in the early states before mopping up the competition as the race goes national. But these four clearly don't want that to happen. In fact, they're sticking their necks pretty far out to help make it not happen. And their endorsements, coming right now, tell me they have some confidence it won't.