Kerry to Endorse Obama

John Kerry, United States Senator from Massachusetts
John Kerry, United States Senator from Massachusetts

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Senator John Kerry is set to endorse the presidential candidacy of Senator Barack Obama at a rally here today, the first of several high-profile Democrats expected to announce their support for Mr. Obama in his fight to win the party’s nomination.

Mr. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat who was the party’s presidential nominee in 2004, will argue that Mr. Obama represents the best prospect for uniting a divided country, aides to both men said, as well as transforming America’s image around the world.

The endorsement is weeks in the making.

In the final days before the Iowa caucuses, Mr. Kerry was on the verge of endorsing Mr. Obama, several senior Democratic officials said, but a final decision wasn’t made because it wasn’t clear how it would affect the campaign. So Mr. Kerry decided to hold off on the endorsement until after the New Hampshire primary.

The endorsement ceremony today, on the campus of the College of Charleston, brings the relationship of the men full circle.

It was back in 2004 when Mr. Kerry selected Mr. Obama – then a state senator, vying for a U.S. Senate seat – to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. The speech elevated the stature of Mr. Obama almost overnight, launched the reprinting of his book, “Dreams From My Father,” and set his political career in overdrive.

Mr. Obama’s second-place finish in New Hampshire on Tuesday may have slowed some of his potential endorsements, aides said, but several Democrats are expected to announce their support soon.

While Mr. Obama has trailed Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in endorsements by their Senate colleagues – a touchy area given Senate politics and personal relationships – a half dozen or so Democrats were seen as likely candidates to lend public support to the Obama campaign in the coming days.

“There have been some conversations, I can say that,” said Senator Ben Nelson, the moderate Nebraska Democrat. Mr. Nelson, who invited Mr. Obama to campaign for him in 2006, said he has not yet pulled the trigger on an endorsement but that he was more inclined to consider one now since two Senate Democrats - Joseph Biden of Delaware and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut - had dropped out.

“When there were four of your colleagues, it certainly made it virtually impossible to do so,” he said earlier this week. “You get to two and it is just a little bit easier.”

Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader and an early backer of Mr. Obama, said that the Illinois senator is in position to quickly pull the party together behind his candidacy should his
streak continue.