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Obama Hopes to Reap Benefits of Kennedy Presidential Endorsement

Senator Barack Obama is hoping for a boost in his quest for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination after getting the endorsement of one of the party's elder statesmen, Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has the latest on the Democratic Party presidential race from Washington.

Political experts are divided about the impact of political endorsements.

But Obama supporters are ecstatic in the wake of Ted Kennedy's endorsement on Monday and his statement that Senator Obama would be ready on day-one to assume the presidency if elected.

"He is a leader who sees the world clearly without being cynical," he said.

Kennedy remains a revered figure in Democratic Party politics. He is one of the last links to the so-called Age of Camelot when his brother, John F. Kennedy, was in the White House and inspired a generation of Democrats with his message of change and commitment to government service.

In receiving the endorsement, Obama acknowledged the Kennedy legacy and promised to carry on the ideals embodied by President Kennedy.

"I know what your support means. I know the cherished place the Kennedy family holds in the hearts of the American people," he said.

Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of President Kennedy, also endorsed Obama, as did Ted Kennedy's son, Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island.

But like Democrats in general, the Kennedy family is split between supporters of Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton.

Several children of the late Senator Robert Kennedy are supporting Clinton, including Robert Kennedy, Jr.

"Teddy and Caroline have made their judgment and I absolutely respect those judgments. I feel just as strongly about my reasons for supporting Hillary Clinton," he said.

Some veteran Democrats believe the Kennedy endorsement could help Obama as he and Clinton prepare to compete in the 22 Democratic contests on February 5 when more than half of the party's nominating delegates will be at stake.

"If Ted Kennedy is able to convey to Democratic voters that Barack Obama has that special something that he saw in his brother John Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy, that is a powerful signal to send to Democrats," said longtime Democratic pollster Geoffrey Garin.

The Kennedy endorsement came days after Obama's landslide win in the South Carolina primary where he got strong support from African-American voters, one of the most loyal constituencies within the Democratic Party.

Some African-American leaders criticized the role played by former President Bill Clinton in his wife's campaign, as he raised questions about Obama's record and experience.

Political analyst Michael Barone argues that offending African-American voters could hurt the Democrats in the November general election.

"If Hillary Clinton win the Democratic nomination by visibly disrespecting an important Democratic core constituency, I think that is a political liability for the Democratic Party in November," he said.

But Bill Clinton remains popular with Democrats, and he remains active on the campaign trail on behalf of his wife, as he was Tuesday in New Jersey, which holds a primary on February 5.

"These are tough, complicated times, but we can bring America back. We have done it before and she [Hillary] will lead us in doing in again in rebuilding the middle class life," he said.

The schedule of presidential primaries and caucuses for both parties extends into early June, and many analysts now believe the Democratic Party race will not be settled for some time, perhaps not even until the Democratic Party's nominating convention in Denver, Colorado in late August.

"We could easily go, not only through Super Tuesday and the Mid-Atlantic primaries and through the March contests, but we might even see people looking ahead to Pennsylvania on April 22," said Norman Ornstein, a political expert at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

The Republican Party presidential contenders will also face a major test on February 5, the so-called Super Tuesday, when 21 states hold nominating primaries or caucuses. The Republicans hold their convention in early September in Minneapolis-St. Paul.