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Chandler gives nod to Obama


U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler endorsed fellow Democrat Barack Obama on Tuesday, likening it to his famous grandfather’s support of John Kennedy a generation ago.

Chandler, who represents a central Kentucky district featuring a mix of farms, small towns and the state’s second-largest city, said he was impressed with Obama’s message of “change and hope” and his “quiet strength.”

“Now is not the time to be timid,” Chandler told a group of Obama supporters in a downtown park. “It is instead a time to be bold, and to support the candidate who has the ability to transform our future.”

The endorsement heading into Kentucky’s May 20 primary gives Obama the support of the state’s two Democratic congressmen – both party superdelegates.

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, whose Louisville district is a key Democratic stronghold, previously endorsed Obama for their party’s presidential nomination and introduced Chandler at Tuesday’s event.

Chandler’s backing also narrows Obama’s slim deficit with rival Hillary Rodham Clinton for support among Kentucky superdelegates.

Still, Chandler conceded that Obama faces a “difficult climb” in next month’s election in Kentucky. Unlike Obama, Clinton has campaigned in Kentucky this year, and her husband and daughter also have stumped for her in the Bluegrass state.

In backing Obama, Chandler said it wasn’t easy to possibly “go against the tide.”

“That’s not the most enjoyable place to be in your home area,” he said. “But I did it because I believe that it was the right thing to do. I believe that our country needs this kind of change, our country needs this kind of boldness.”

The Chandler name is one of the most famous in Kentucky politics. Chandler’s grandfather, A.B. “Happy” Chandler, was twice elected governor, served in the U.S. Senate and was commissioner of baseball.

Ben Chandler noted that his family has gone against the state political tide before in Democratic presidential contests. In 1960, he said, his grandfather endorsed Kennedy when doubts persisted whether a Catholic could be elected president and when many state Democratic leaders opposed Kennedy’s nomination.

“When my grandfather was asked why he had sided with Kennedy, he said simply, ‘I know I picked a winner,'” Ben Chandler said.

Now, in endorsing a man who would become the country’s first black president if elected, Chandler said of Obama, “I know I’ve picked a winner.”

Carolyn Tandy, Obama’s campaign director in Kentucky, said Chandler’s endorsement would boost Obama’s Kentucky campaign.

“This is tremendous,” she said. “The Chandler name throughout the state means a lot.”

Chandler’s endorsement also gives Obama a boost in the competition for superdelegates, the elected and party officials expected to be pivotal in deciding the cliffhanger race for the nomination.

Clinton has been endorsed by superdelegates Terry McBrayer, JoEtta Wickliffe and Moretta Bosley, who are Democratic National Committee members from Kentucky.

Gov. Steve Beshear, another superdelegate, has not made an endorsement. Nor have two other Kentucky superdelegates, state Democratic chairwoman Jennifer Moore and the state party’s vice chairman, Nathan Smith.

The jockeying between Clinton and Obama for support comes in a year when Kentucky’s late presidential primary actually matters. Typically, the nomination is decided long before Kentuckians go to the polls.

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