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Joan Vennochi

A loss for Kennedy

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Joan Vennochi
Globe Columnist / February 6, 2008

HILLARY CLINTON didn't just beat Barack Obama in Massachusetts.

She beat Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Bay State's liberal icon; Senator John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic Party nominee; and Governor Deval Patrick, the Bay State's purveyor of hope and optimism.

Politics doesn't get any more personal than the Clinton-Obama showdown in Massachusetts.

Kennedy's blessing threatened to give older, more traditional Democrats permission to vote with their hearts. It was a stab at the heart of the Clinton campaign - and a disloyal one, from the Clinton perspective.

Back in 1994, Kennedy was suddenly and shockingly vulnerable to a challenge from a rich, smart Republican named Mitt Romney. On the defense in his first real political fight in decades, Kennedy wrapped himself "in President Clinton's mantle," the Globe reported in June 1994. "I am honored to stand with him, day after day, week after week, month after month, in our fight for jobs, economic justice, and progress on the great issues like health reform," Kennedy told delegates to that year's Democratic state convention.

Both Clintons rushed to Kennedy's aid.

"There is not a single, solitary member of the US Senate more interested in new ideas than he is. In the most partisan atmosphere in modern history, he is absolutely the ablest member of the Congress at getting Republicans to vote with him and work with him to make this country a better place," President Clinton told Massachusetts voters.

Hillary Clinton also campaigned for Kennedy: "Do not let the political climate of the moment undermine the record of one of the greatest senators who has ever served in the US Senate," she said at a September 1994 event.

In 2008, Kennedy didn't return the favor. Kennedy Country took on Clinton Country.

Now, that's personal. Clinton backers vowed to battle for a state that Bill and Hillary Clinton vacationed in, raised millions in, and nurtured for years. Clinton headquarters buzzed with volunteers the day before the primary vote.

"We'll do everything we can to deliver Massachusetts. Bill and Hillary Clinton never forgot this state," said Boston City Council President Maureen E. Feeney. Added House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi: "There are show horses and workhorses. We're the workhorses."

The workhorses beat the show horses. Clinton won.

Joan Vennochi's e-mail address is vennochi@globe.com.

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