Kennedys Come Out for Obama

From CBS News Producer Erin Lyall:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- It was quite the photo op: Barack Obama, the junior Senator from Illinois, flanked by members of the Kennedy clan, bastions of the old guard. Sen Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., his son Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., and JFK's daughter Caroline Kennedy took the stage with Obama to the cheers of thousands packed into American University's Bender Arena.

"Over the years, I've been deeply moved by the people who've told me they wish they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president," said Caroline.

"Fortunately, there is one candidate who offers that same sense of hope and inspiration and I am proud to endorse Senator Barack Obama for President."

Caroline introduced her uncle, the second-longest serving member of the Senate (elected when Obama was just 15 months old), to offer his highly-sought endorsement.

In a speech peppered with quotes from his brother and Martin Luther King, Ted Kennedy called Obama the most "inspiring candidate" in the race. And despite his respect and admiration for Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, and his commitment to "seeing a Democratic President in 2008," he said Obama is the one candidate "who has extraordinary gifts of leadership and character, matched to the extraordinary demands of this moment in history."

In a sign of just how much of Ted voters can expect to see over the next several weeks, Kennedy offered "my help, my voice, my energy and my commitment to make Barack Obama the next President of the United States."

In his remarks, Obama said, "Today isn't just about politics for me. It's personal. I was too young to remember John Kennedy and I was just a child when Robert Kennedy ran for President. But in the stories I heard growing up, I saw how my grandparents and mother spoke about them, and about that period in our nation's life – as a time of great hope and achievement. And I think my own sense of what's possible in this country comes in part from what they said America was like in the days of John and Robert Kennedy."

In contrast, several members of Bobby Kennedy's family endorsed Hillary Clinton this week. And some who have been drawn to Obama's promise of new politics might not appreciate this endorsement by the oldest of the old school of Democratic politics.

But for now the Obama campaign folks, who were all smiles on the flight to Washington this morning, hope the Kennedy endorsement and upcoming appearances on the campaign trail will build upon the momentum of their candidate's overwhelming win in South Carolina.

  • Steve Chaggaris

    Steve Chaggaris is CBS News' senior political editor.