Voters Don't Share Kennedys' Ardor for Obama

By Anne E. Kornblut and Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama won the Kennedys, key members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation and support from the charismatic African American governor of the state.

But in the end, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton won Massachusetts. It was arguably the most surprising twist in the Super Tuesday returns on the Democratic side -- one that seemed to reflect her earlier upset in New Hampshire, and underscored the core of support from women that is becoming her firewall in the nominating contest.

For Clinton, winning in Massachusetts meant significant bragging rights. Obama had earned endorsements from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the larger-than-life senior senator, and Sen. John F. Kerry, the junior senator who was the party's last presidential nominee. Obama had organizational help from Deval L. Patrick, the governor, who is also a personal friend, and from allies from his days as a Harvard Law student.

But Clinton won comfortably in a race that was, in some ways, always hers to lose. It was, after all, Martha's Vineyard where the Clintons vacationed during the 1990s. Although the Clinton campaign declared Massachusetts the "upset of the night," Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, one of the most prominent elected officials who stayed with Clinton as others broke for Obama, said: "I'm not surprised at all."

"This is Clinton country up here," Menino said.

It "was about real people," Menino said, who saw in Clinton a fighter on their behalf.

By tilting toward Clinton largely on the strength of female support, Massachusetts was on the leading edge of a national trend in the Democratic race, as women continued to break for the N.Y. senator in some, though not all, races. Exit polls showed Clinton ahead among women in the Bay State with a double-digit lead, while Obama had a significant lead among men.

Michael Goldman, a Democratic political operative, said Clinton's advantage among women was decisive. "A lot of women simply came to her rescue," he said.

Obama officials echoed the sentiment, noting that Clinton had always been ahead in the polls. But it was a disappointment nonetheless -- perhaps a reflection of dissatisfaction in the state with Patrick, who ran for governor on a change-over-experience platform similar to Obama's. Or perhaps it was a spillover from the New Hampshire primary almost a month ago, when voters rejected the conventional wisdom, that Obama was on a roll, and voted for Clinton. It was maybe even a daring statement by voters in a state that has not typically gone for women candidates at the statewide level, despite its liberal undercurrents.

Or maybe, in the end, it was about the basics: building a political infrastructure, which Clinton did.

"John Kerry really doesn't have an infrastructure; and Ted Kennedy is a fierce political leader, but you needed the boots on the ground," said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center.

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