MACON, Ga. – Senator Edward M. Kennedy intends to endorse the presidential candidacy of Senator Barack Obama during a rally on Monday in Washington.
The Kennedy endorsement has been underway for days, even before the outcome of the South Carolina primary. Mr. Kennedy told his decision to Mr. Obama on Thursday.
“I’ve had ongoing conversations with Ted since I’ve got into this race,” Mr. Obama told reporters today as he flew to Alabama.
Of all the endorsements in the Democratic Party, Mr. Kennedy’s is viewed as the most weighty. He had vowed to stay out of the presidential nominating fight, but as the contest expands into a state-by-state fight – and given the tone of the race in the last week – associates said he was moved to announce his support for Mr. Obama.
The endorsement will be announced at a rally at American University on Monday, hours before the State of the Union Address at the Capitol.
Mr. Obama flew to Georgia for his first post-South Carolina stop. Before appearing at Sunday morning church services at the Harvest Cathedral in Macon, Ga., Mr. Obama was asked about Mr. Kennedy’s potential endorsement on ABC News’ “This Week.”
“Well, you know, I’ll let Ted Kennedy speak for himself. And nobody does it better,” Mr. Obama said. “But obviously, any of the Democratic candidates would love to have Ted Kennedy’s support. And we have certainly actively sought it. And you know, I will let him make his announcement and his decision when he decides it’s appropriate.”
Mr. Kennedy, the latest in a string of senators to announce their support for Mr. Obama, is said by associates to be drawn to Mr. Obama because of his ability to motivate a new generation of Democrats. His niece, Caroline Kennedy, made a similar argument in an op-ed piece in today’s Times.
During Mr. Obama’s three years in the Senate, he has worked to build allies and gain friendships with many of his colleagues. While Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Obama have not been particularly close, Mr. Obama quickly gained the admiration of the Kennedy family.
It was on a November day in 2005, near the end of Mr. Obama’s first year in the Senate, when he was asked to deliver a keynote address at a ceremony commemorating the 80th birthday of Robert F. Kennedy. The invitation was extended by Ethel Kennedy, who at the time referred to Mr. Obama as “our next president.”
“I think he feels it. He feels it just like Bobby did,” Mrs. Kennedy told me that day, comparing her late husband’s quest for social justice to Mr. Obama’s. “He has the passion in his heart. He’s not selling you. It’s just him.”
While Mr. Obama dismissed the suggestion at the time, her words were among the many accolades from prominent Democrats that sparked his presidential ambitions.
In an interview with reporters aboard his plane, Mr. Obama said he had been having ongoing conversations with Mr. Kennedy since he began his presidential campaign a year ago. He declined to discuss the endorsement of Mr. Kennedy, but he called the support of Caroline Kennedy “an extraordinary honor.”
“For somebody who, I think, has been such an important part of our national imagination and who generally shies away from involvement in day to day politics to step out like that is something that I’m very grateful for,” he said.