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OH NO! ‘0-8: Western Mass Style…

Just when we thought that Western Massachusetts was nearly irrelevant in Presidential elections, something happens that, locally at least, makes it a little more interesting.

According to the Republican, Congressman Richard Neal has officially endorsed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic Presidential Nomination. A blurb in the Boston Globe noted that Neal along with Cong. Jim McGovern of Worcester are the only two Massachusetts Reps to formally declare a preference in the 2008 race. McGovern has endorsed Clinton also.

Neal’s endorsement is not surprising in terms of choice, but rather timing. Inevitably, all but the most skittish Federally elected officials will make their opinions known on their party’s nomination. Most, like Neal, do not commit themselves to any active campaigning, but will help out when possible.

Anyway, timing vs. choice. Neal’s choice of Clinton is reasonable on a number of levels. While almost every Republican would call Hillary Clinton a bleeding-heart liberal communist, the truth is different. Not as liberal as WI Sen. Russ Feingold, but not nearly as conservative as NE Sen. Ben Nelson, Clinton is a moderate within the party, not the wider political spectrum. As such, her views are very much in line with the old guard old city Democrat, which Neal is. This is especially true given Clinton’s constituency, namely the older cities of upstate New York, and the City to a lesser extent, which share many of the same problems as Springfield. In addition, as Bill Clinton, Hillary’s husband, was the only Democratic president Neal has served under, out of the three, undoubtedly, Neal probably had the best relationship with Pres. Clinton.

The timing, as said, is most interesting. Neal and his staff made an extremely wise decision to offer his endorsement now. A new, power-sharing arrangement has been implemented in Northern Ireland, a pet issue of Neal’s. Given his very public role in the American side of the peace process, announcing now virtually guaranteed press coverage. And indeed it worked. The Globe and MSNBC both reported on Neal’s endorsement. Even the Republican noted the timing. Neal, who by and large does not pursue a national profile, would probably not have seen the same press coverage were it not for the happenings in Belfast. The strategy aside, the earliness of the announcement is political payback. Clinton is not struggling in the campaign, but she does face potent challenges in Obama and Edwards. Given that Neal was among those who pushed for the Clintons to take an active role in N. Ireland during Pres. Clinton’s administration, his endorsement now is part-thank you, part “the business of politics.” The earliness and the New England area coverage, including New Hampshire, are part of it.

Neal, for his part, is making an excellent choice. In addition, given the composition of Neal’s district where half of whatever Republicans there are love him, too, “Richie” Neal faces no risk by picking Clinton. Plus, he, like most Dems, will endorse whoever the Democrat ends up being, anyway. WMassP&I truly believes that Hillary Clinton could be one of our greatest Presidents. Granted its not like she’ll have a tough act to follow. Even so, there is something to be said for seeing some newer faces in the arena…and not just Obama. As stated in OH NO! ‘0-8’s first edition, WMassP&I wants Obama to be president, but just feels it is far too early. Frankly, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

*Neal Photo from his Congressional Website, Clintons Photo from Wikipedia.