In a telephone conference call this morning, the Obama campaign announced that Vermont Sen. Pat Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, is endorsing the Illinois senator.
Leahy becomes the latest Democratic senator to back Obama in the past couple of weeks, joining John Kerry of Massachusetts, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri.
*** UPDATE *** NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan has more on the endorsement: Sen. Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, endorsed Obama today in a conference call with campaign manager David Plouffe. Leahy said he felt that Obama could restore the country’s reputation abroad and bring the country together to solve prickly public policy issues.
Asked to point out what Obama had actually down to bring people together in the Senate, Leahy pointed to his work in foreign policy to get aid and military reform in the Congo and on border legislation. However, like many of Obama’s endorsers, the specifics of why he was endorsing him appeared to be trumped by the emotional pull he felt towards the candidate.
Leahy said he had “a gut feeling” that Obama would bring the country together and be “the best” candidate to restore America’s reputation abroad. He said that his endorsement “was not against” either of the other candidates in the race, but was more about believing in the “intangibles” that Obama had to offer. “I wasn’t courted really by either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama. I know all of them… I trust all of them. They all knew that I would make the decision on my own,” Leahy said.
He added, “This is what I felt is best for the country. If he is the nominee, I’ll campaign strongly for him all across the country… I knew who I wanted the only honest thing was to make my choice known.”
Leahy, who is in his sixth term in the Senate, said that he felt in choosing Obama, the anti-Washington candidate, he was making a choice similar to the one he had made when he was a young prosecutor and Robert F. Kennedy was running for office.
The feeling he had about Kennedy, Leahy said, “encouraged me to go against the establishment in my own state.” He said that it was a choice also akin to picking John F. Kennedy over Lyndon Johnson, though Johnson under the theme of “great experience.”
The allusion to Senator Clinton was hard to miss.
Also asked about the lawsuit pending in Nevada, which says that casino workers should not be able to caucus where they work unless all voters get that opportunity, Leahy said that cutting people out of the nominating process now would suppress their turnout later on.
Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, also weighed in to say that these rules had been put in place since March. “Obviously we’ll abide by the rules, but the country should be about encouraging participation,” he added.
The lawsuit to prevent these casino workers -- many of whom are represented by the Culinary Workers Union - from caucusing on the Las Vegas Strip, came just two days after the Culinary union endorsed Obama.
of the announcement. And
has the audio of Leahy's conference call.