Candidates Tap Surrogates

Posted February 1, 2008 at 6:43pm

As the presidential candidates barnstorm the country in the lead-up to Super Tuesday, each campaign has been strategically employing their top Congressional surrogates at get-out-the-vote rallies, at community forums and on television airwaves.

Dubbed Tsunami Tuesday, voters in 24 states will participate in primaries or caucuses tomorrow in what is the largest one-day pre- nomination vote in history.

Democratic Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) have called on their respective supporters to help them gin up turnout, with a heavy focus on the Hispanic vote in California and other Southwestern and Western states.

Obama wasted little time in putting last week’s endorsement from Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) to quick use in his turnout efforts.

Kennedy campaigned in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, N.M., on Thursday and Los Angeles and Oakland, Calif., on Friday. Today, Obama will join Kennedy in Boston on the eve of the Massachusetts primary.

The Bay State’s junior Senator also has gone West for Obama, with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) campaigning in California and Washington state.

In the Northeast, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) carried Obama’s message to voters in two Feb. 5 states late last week. The Judiciary chairman made campaign stops in Delaware, where he met with members of the state Legislative Black Caucus, attorneys in Wilmington and a longshoremens union. He campaigned in Connecticut as well.

Obama also is using some of his Congressional surrogates in TV and radio ads he began airing last week.

In Missouri, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill is featured in one ad while Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) appears in a spot that is running in North Dakota.

Obama held a rally in St. Louis on Saturday, and McCaskill has been campaigning for Obama not only in Missouri but in Kansas and other Feb. 5 states as well.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) is featured in a rural radio spot for Obama in Nebraska, where Democrats will have their caucus Feb. 9.

“I believe we are too divided today, that there is too much bickering and harsh partisanship in Washington,” Nelson says in the ad. “As someone who has spent a career working across the aisle, I believe Sen. Obama is our best hope for reconciliation. His plan strengthens family farms and promotes rural America’s leadership in renewable energy.”

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) has served as a top surrogate across the country for Obama as well, especially in rural areas in the Plains states.

In the South, both Clinton and Obama have focused efforts on turning out the black vote Tuesday. Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.) has been one of the Obama campaign’s top surrogates. Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee hold primaries tomorrow.

Last week, Clinton was in Atlanta for the National Baptist Convention of America and the Georgia Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner. Georgia’s black Democratic Members are split between the two presidential hopefuls. Reps. John Lewis and David Scott are with Clinton, while Reps. Hank Johnson and Sanford Bishop are supporting Obama.

The battle between Clinton and Obama for Hispanic support in California has dramatically ratcheted up in recent days.

Last week, Obama touted the endorsement of Rep. Xavier Becerra (D), and Rep. Linda Sánchez (D) has also served as a high-profile surrogate for him in the Latino community.

Still, Clinton leads Obama in Congressional support in the Golden State. Reps. Hilda Solis (D) and Grace Napolitano (D) have been among her most prolific supporters. And Clinton scored a coup with the endorsement of Rep. Maxine Waters (D) last week. Her most prominent backer in California, however, is Los Angeles Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa (D).

Clinton supporters from other states also have descended on California to campaign. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), a national campaign co-chairwoman for Clinton, did a “Women for Hillary” event in Los Angeles last week.

Jackson Lee then campaigned in Alabama and was in Tennessee on Sunday. Today she is campaigning in Massachusetts.

Like Jackson Lee, Clinton supporters fanned out across the country over the weekend while some campaigned at home.

Democratic Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington are working across their state for Clinton, while former House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt campaigned at home in Missouri on Sunday.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) campaigned for Clinton in Delaware, Reps. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) and Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) spent the past few days in Arizona, and Del. Donna Christian-Christensen (D-Virgin Islands) spent the weekend in Delaware and New Jersey, where Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) also hit the trail.

Clinton supporter Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) has been campaigning in his home state. He and Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) headlined a rally at Montclair State University last week. Clinton is expected to do well in New Jersey on Tuesday because of the state’s close proximity and shared media market with the Empire State.

Voters in both New York and Illinois will go to the polls Tuesday, and each Senator is expected to run up big vote margins on their home-state turf. Members of both Congressional delegations have been campaigning hard for their respective Senators.

Clinton has a slight lead over Obama when it comes to Congressional supporters in Feb. 5 states, excluding their home-state delegations.

Voters in Arkansas, where Clinton was the state’s first lady for 12 years, also will go to the polls Tuesday. Rep. Mike Ross (D) campaigned in Pine Bluff and Texarkana with former President Bill Clinton on Friday.

On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) supporters have been capitalizing on the momentum coming out of his Florida primary win.

McCain picked up high-profile endorsements last week from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), as his Congressional supporters were working in the trenches and travelling the Feb. 5 circuit.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of McCain’s most ardent supporters, has been campaigning for the Arizonan in the South.

On Friday, Graham campaigned in Georgia, with stops in Augusta and Macon, before heading to Montgomery, Ala., on Saturday. McCain was scheduled to campaign in Birmingham on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Sens. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.) and Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Mike Castle (R-Del.) have served as McCain surrogates in the Northeast. Lieberman campaigned for McCain in New York on Friday and in Connecticut on Saturday while Warner was in New Jersey.

McCain attended a rally in Connecticut yesterday.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) leads McCain in total endorsements from Members of the House and Senate by a margin of 42 to 37.

Romney campaigned Friday in Colorado with Sen. Wayne Allard (R) and attended a rally in California last week with GOP Reps. Dana Rohrabacher and Brian Bilbray.