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Breaking News: Ethel Kennedy, La Opinion endorse Obama

February 2, 2008 |  2:30 pm

As predicted here on The Ticket early Friday morning, Ethel Kennedy, the widow of slain Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, has just endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic party's presidential nomination.

She joins Ted, Caroline and Patrick Kennedy in choosing primary political sides while some of her children have gone another way in their party and endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton. And the influential Spanish-language daily newspaper La Opinion also came out for Obama.

In an unusually enthusiastic statement that calls Obama "a magnetic force" and compares the freshman Illinois senator favorably to her husband, a senator from New York when he was gunned down in Los Angeles campaigning for the California Democratic primary in 1968, Ethel Kennedy said:

“Over these past few years, I’ve watched Senator Obama inspire....

Americans from all walks of life to believe in real change and a new sense of hope and possibility. He’s a magnetic force, drawing the nation together for the common good and galvanizing us all to help shape our country’s future.

“Barack is so like Bobby, who struggled for the rights of the poor in the Mississippi Delta and Appalachia, traveled to California to stand in solidarity with Cesar Chavez and farm workers, and fought to end another war that cost so many lives.

“Today, we crave a leader with vision who can help us regain our lost humanity and rekindle our inherent generosity. With courage, caring, and charisma, Senator Obama is leading us toward a kinder, gentler world."

Do you think she's for him?  But wait, there's a little more:

“Senator Obama’s candidacy sends out ‘ripples of hope’ that can build a ‘current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.’  I am proud to support Barack Obama, and look forward to him leading this country toward a brighter, more hopeful future.”

No coincidence they saved this big endorsement for the weekend before Super Tuesday when more than 20 states vote or caucus. Nor that she mentions her husband's close ties to the Latino community, especially California's, where Obama is hoping to cut into Clinton's support.

Though probably not a surprise to Clinton operatives after Ted Kennedy, Ethel's brother-in-law, spurned Bill Clinton's last-minute pleas not to endorse Obama last weekend, it is an unwanted blow to her campaign, especially in California and in the closing hours of that state's big race.

To compound the sense of momentum for Obama, the editorial board of La Opinion, with a readership of 500,000 the largest Spanish-language daily in the country, endorsed Obama today, praising his "inclusive message of hope" and his "conciliatory style that can reverse the vicious cycle of rancor which has paralyzed (the country's) ability to come together on major decisions."

And another surprise endorsement: Susan Eisenhower, the granddaughter of Republican Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower, issued a statement supporting Obama: "We have been living in a zero-sum political environment where all heads have been lowered to avert being lopped off by angry, noisy extremists," she said. "I am convinced that Barack Obama is the one presidential candidate today who can encourage ordinary Americans to stand straight again."

But Clinton didn't slow down today. Before flying off to Arizona and New Mexico this afternoon, she spent the morning campaigning aggressively in L.A. Latino neighborhoods. At a Cal State rally of thousands of blacks and Latinos, where she was introduced by a string of blacks and Latinos including Fabian Nunez, the former first lady said she is the best pick to work for struggling families.

Aides say they expect her to win California's big packet of delegates on Tuesday, but admit Obama is closing.

Obama himself stopped in Idaho, which hasn't voted for a Democratic president in nearly a half-century. Yet he gathered 14,000 in the Idaho State stadium in Boise for his standard message of hope and optimism before smartly slipping in acknowledgement of the passing and day's funeral for Gordon Hinkley, president of the Mormon church, which has many members in the state.

To get the background of Ethel Kennedy's growing support for Obama, read our item from Friday morning here. For a whole bunch of other endorsements in the last 24 hours, read our item from last evening here. To see the endorsements of The Times' Editorial Board for each parties' primary to be published in Sunday's newspaper, read this.

--Andrew Malcolm

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