Endorsement Week

With a week left to go until Super Tuesday and no primaries left with the exception of Florida which doesn’t count, there’s just not that many avenues to get some good free press out there, but it seems the Obama camp has found a way.

Or, more accurately put, that way has found him.

This is the tough time of the primary season.  Up until now, presidential primaries have been all about retail politics; getting out there, gripping and grinning, and winning over one vote at a time.  But nowthe dynamic has shifted.  With 22 states set to vote one week from today, there’s no possible way to handle those states like you might handle New Hampshire or Iowa.

So you have to strategize.  You have to pick which states you’re going to play in, which states you’ll flyover, which states you’ll flood with tv and radio ad buys, and which states you’re going to hold town halls in.

And of course, you take every second of free tv and every inch of positive column space that will come your way.

Here we find the significance of endorsements.  Now, it’s never easy to adequately measure the effect of an endorsement, and some endorsements (Like, for instance, the endorsement of a Chuck Norris or Rick Flair) are just outright silly.

Some endorsements are huge, and could mean the difference in really close states as well as earning you more Super Delegates than once was expected.  Other’s may not be as valuable.

But this week, a half way decent endorsement gets you one thing that is worth its weight in gold in the realm of primary politics; free media.

For this reason, the Obama campaign has hit a virtual goldmine in that it seems to have become endorsement week for them.  Just yesterday, the endorsement of Caroline Kennedy and Senator Ted Kennedy lit up the headlines and offered perhaps the best free message possible; that a vote for Obama is a promise to return America to the bygone days of Camelot.

Lost in the midst of this was also the Seattle Times endorsement.  Newspaper endorsements aren’t huge deals, but good for a little press, and the fact that it was drowned out by a bigger endorsement is itself worth thinking about.

Today we have two more endorsements for the Obama campaign.  While neither can possibly hope to be as high profile as the Kennedy’s, one is definitely high profile while the other is worth thinking about.

First up to the plate is Kathleen Sebelius, the governor of Kansas.  If the name sounds familiar, it might be because just last night she delivered the Democratic rebuttal to the State of the Union.  Also, it is important to keep in mind that this is a lady who has strongly won her governorship in a decidedly red state, an accomplishment that has earned her the respect of the Democratic party.

On top of the free press and the added Super Delegate, Sebelius’ endorsement will help Obama largely in Kansas where Sebelius is rather popular, and should have a well established network.

Next up is an endorsement that gave me cause to stop and think.  Apparently a group of over 80 volunteer lawyers for Gitmo detainees have come out to support Senator Obama.  As far as political clout goes, there’s just not much there there.  But that doesn’t mean this endorsement insignificant.  While this may not swing huge swaths of voters in Obama’s direction, there is an important constitutional and ideological undertone to this endorsement:

The attorneys praised Obama for being a leader in an unsuccessful fight in the fall of 2006 to block Congress from enacting a law stripping courts of jurisdiction to hear Guantanamo detainee lawsuits. The constitutionality of that law, which was part of the Military Commissions Act, is now being challenged before the Supreme Court in one of the most closely-watched cases this term.

“When we were walking the halls of the Capitol trying to win over enough Senators to beat back the Administration’s bill, Senator Obama made his key staffers and even his offices available to help us,” they wrote. “Senator Obama worked with us to count the votes, and he personally lobbied colleagues who worried about the political ramifications of voting to preserve habeas corpus for the men held at Guantanamo. He has understood that our strength as a nation stems from our commitment to our core values, and that we are strong enough to protect both our security and those values. Senator Obama demonstrated real leadership then and since, continuing to raise Guantanamo and habeas corpus in his speeches and in the debates.”

Anyone for whom the state of detainees held in Gitmo is an important issue, specifically the morally reprehensible act of suspending Habeas Corpus, this endorsement should give you reason to take a second look at Obama.

It shows that the people on the front lines in that fight have had occasion to deal with Obama on the issue, and are vouching for his leadership therein.  This wasn’t just Obama giving “fancy speeches” as he is accused of doing, but actually taking action on the battles that matter most.

It reminds me of the real reason why Obama cast all those “present” votes back in Illinois (I’ve written upon this in the past in greater detail, but the short version is simply that the present votes were often used to provide political cover for other Democrats.  In other words, Obama may not have done the best thing for his own political career, but he was doing the right thing to win political battles for progressive values).

Or the work he did when the South Dakota state government sought to establish a ban on abortion.

Which brings us back to why the lawyers chose to endorse Obama in the first place; to remind people he’s not just all talk.  That he has proven in the past that he will get in there and fight on the tough issues.

Just as I’m big on pro-choice issues, I’m big on maintaining the integrity of our constitution, including the part that protects the right of Habeas Corpus, and these 80 lawyers have shown up to remind us that in the fight to protect Habeas, Obama was right there, doing what he can.

Like I said, not the most earth shattering endorsement ever, but definitely food for thought.  I wonder who’s next.

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