Hodes backs Obama; other Dems in N.H., Iowa waiting to endorse

Rep. Paul Hodes (N.H) yesterday became the first Democratic congressman from an early presidential primary state to endorse a presidential candidate.

Although Hodes made the decision to join Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaJacobin Editor-at-Large: Valerie Jarrett's support for Citigroup executive's mayoral campaign 'microcosm' of Democrats' relationship with Wall Street Obama to stump for Biden in Philadelphia On India, the US must think bigger MORE’s (D-Ill.) campaign, the other three Democrats from Iowa and New Hampshire won’t be following his lead anytime soon.

Reps. Carol Shea-PorterCarol Shea-PorterThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority New Hampshire New Members 2019 Democrat Chris Pappas wins New Hampshire House seat MORE (N.H.), David Loebsack (Iowa) and Bruce Braley (Iowa) all said yesterday that they are not ready to offer an endorsement.

Shea-Porter told The Hill that she isn’t planning to endorse anyone before the primary. She added that she is thrilled with what she sees as the Democrats’ “deep bench,” but she thinks the primary process will pick the right candidate without her endorsement.

Shea-Porter added, however, her decision not to pick a horse has not stopped them from asking.

Braley and Loebsack aren’t saying they won’t endorse, but they say they’re not ready to do so yet.

“I wouldn’t say in the immediate future, but he has been doing events with [the candidates],” Loebsack’s spokeswoman, Gabby Adler, said of her boss.

Braley has done events with Obama, Sens. Joseph Biden (Del.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), his spokesman, Jeff Giertz, said. Giertz added that the congressman is staying neutral for now, and is not offering predictions as to if, when or whom he might endorse.

“He believes the Democrats are fielding a very strong field of candidates this year,” Giertz said. “If a Democratic candidate comes to his district, Rep. Braley is happy to campaign with them.”

Hodes said the endorsement represents a continuation of his campaign pledge to change Washington — a message Obama has put at the forefront of his campaign — and that New Hampshire voters are savvy enough to know that presidential endorsements don’t have to be divisive.

“To me, this is part of that mission,” Hodes said. “People in New Hampshire understand how primaries work really well. I’m not concerned about alienating people who may be with other presidential candidates.”

Obama said Hodes would give him “an enormous boost” in New Hampshire and would provide guidance on issues around the country.

Obama also seemed to draw parallels between Hodes’s 2006 upset of then-Rep. Charlie Bass (R-N.H.) and his own candidacy.

“Paul overcame a lot of the predictions that he couldn’t beat an incumbent several years ago, because he was a fresh new voice who spoke the truth,” Obama said. “People appreciated that he could be an agent of change.”

A former chairwoman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, Kathy Sullivan, questioned the value of such an early endorsement.

Though she conceded that this primary season has been unusual, Sullivan said a summer endorsement does not carry some of the benefits, such as free media, that candidates covet during the more intense months of the campaign.

“I kind of am curious as to why endorsements are being made in July,” Sullivan said. “Are people paying attention yet?”
Sullivan said that while Hodes’s endorsement is a good get for Obama, it’s unlikely to translate into votes.

“I don’t think in New Hampshire typically endorsements bring a lot of votes with them,” she said.

Sullivan said that while the freshman congressman is in a position to share winning information with Obama, she doesn’t think Hodes enjoys a statewide organization as influential as Shea-Porter’s.

According to the latest Granite State Poll, sponsored by CNN and WMUR-TV in Manchester, N.H., Shea-Porter has a favorable rating of 39 percent to Hodes’s 34 percent. Shea-Porter’s unfavorables are at 18 percent, and 28 percent “don’t know.”

By contrast, Hodes’s unfavorable rating is at 21 percent, with 36 percent who don’t know.

Sullivan said that with only two congressional endorsements up for grabs there are benefits for Obama, but added that there are dangers for the endorser, particularly when he’s facing reelection himself.

She said there is a risk for Hodes if the presidential primary “starts to get very nasty.” If it does, Hodes would be wise to avoid the perception that he is an Obama spokesman attacking other Democrats at the risk of alienating voters aligned with other contenders.

She added that if Hodes were facing a primary opponent, an unlikely scenario at present, he would be depriving himself of larger audiences by limiting himself to appearances with only one Democratic candidate.

Sullivan said rumors were swirling around New Hampshire Wednesday that Obama’s endorsement might be former Vice President Al Gore or former Democratic Sens. Gary Hart (Colo.) or Bill Bradley (N.J.).