With the clock running down on a long-fought primary, NARAL Pro-Choice America leaders sent state affiliates reeling this week by endorsing Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. It was seen as a gratuitous slap in the face to a longtime ally, and it sparked a fear even closer to home: that the move will alienate donors loyal to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.
Many on this week’s conference call were stunned on learning the news, making urgent pleas for the group to remain neutral until after the June 3 Democratic primaries.
“It’s created a firestorm,” said NARAL Pro-Choice New York President Kelli Conlin, who was on the conference call. “Everyone was mystified ... saying, ‘What is the upside for the organization? And, frankly, [there was] a lot of concern about the donor base. ... There was real concern there would be a backlash.”
There was a backlash, and it was swift, starting with NARAL’s own website. At last count, there were more than 3,300 comments in an electronic chat about the endorsement, the overwhelming majority of them negative. “Shame shame shame!” read one, with many correspondents threatening never to support NARAL financially again. “No more donations from me!!!” wrote another.
In Washington, two dozen women members of Congress who support Clinton held a quickly organized press conference to tout her abortion-rights record Wednesday night. Ellen Malcolm, founder of the abortion-rights women’s fundraising group EMILY’s List, sharply rebuked NARAL for its endorsement. Two former members of Congress (and Clinton supporters) — Geraldine Ferraro and Pat Schroeder — jabbed at NARAL for endorsing before the general election. “Looks like some higher ups at NARAL are trying to get jobs in the new administration ... nothing else makes sense to us,” they wrote in a joint letter.
Now, I'm not going to cry any tears over anyone disassociating themselves with NARAL, regardless of the reason. Hey, I support you wholeheartedly. But I can't really understand what they thought they'd accomplish by endorsing Obama. It seems like Hillary is the one who has lobbied tirelessly for NARAL, and as she is the one who needs the boost, why didn't they endorse her? It isn't like endorsing a candidate who doesn't get the nomination puts a scarlet letter on you for the rest of the election, or that you won't have a voice in the administration of whoever wins. I just don't see what they thought they'd gain from it.
Ed had an idea:
NARAL picked the worst time to make an endorsement. Instead of picking someone early, they chose Obama with just three weeks left to go before the end of the primaries. Did they think they could help him in Puerto Rico, or believe him in danger of losing the nomination? What practical effect would their endorsement have on his ability to collect votes in the handful of contests remaining?
Not much, but obviously that wasn’t their motivation. They wanted to send a message to Hillary to get out of the race now, rather than ride out the short string of primaries left. NARAL wants to show some muscle in the party’s operations, and doesn’t mind throwing Hillary under the bus to do so. Instead, they have enraged their base of women who have seen Hillary as their champion both in this race and on the mission of NARAL itself — and see her opponent as an Obama-come-lately, an ally but certainly not someone who has done the trench work that Hillary has done over a long period of years.
Apparently, sticking by the person who has worked so hard for you for years now isn't all that important to NARAL.
But hey, who cares what their motives are? This is great for me! Let the chaos continue. Anything that can further Hillary's chances for winning the nomination is fantastic. Way to go, NARAL!
Hat Tip: Hot Air