(Some) Women For Coakley

Enthusiasm from supporters was high this morning at the Martha Coakley press conference, where EMILY's List, the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus (MWPC), and a bunch of female state legislators formally expressed their endorsement of the Attorney General in her campaign for the US Senate. Enthusiasm from the press was perhaps more tepid -- I counted only about a dozen journalists in the room. This was the start of a day devoted to women for Coakley: after the press conference would be a big women-for-Coakley fundraiser, and tonight Coakley receives a big award at MWPC's annual Abigail Adams dinner. And, while press coverage would be nice, this day's theme and events were more about big checks from donors -- it was no coincidence that this was all scheduled for the last day of the 3rd quarter campaign-finance reporting calendar. I am told that the luncheon would raise $150,000, double their expectation.

Ginning up enthusiasm over Coakley's gender (she would be the first woman Senator ever from Massachusetts) has got to be a big plus for fundraising, so you can't blame the campaign for playing into it in this early going. I'm skeptical about how it plays to highlight that particular differentiator down the line. We'll see how Coakley handles it.

But I also am getting the first rumblings of a related discomfort among some party insiders. Voters have forgotten -- if they ever knew about -- last year's tensions surrounding the Clinton-Obama nomination, but the inside players have not.

So, at this morning's press conference, someone like me who followed that divide pretty closely couldn't help noticing that the 20 elected officials standing behind Coakley included many of the Hillary bitter-enders. Harriett Chandler, Lida Harkins, Kay Khan, Joan Menard, Therese Murray, and Alice Wolf (and Kimberly Driscoll and Karen Spilka, who have endorsed Coakley but who I don't believe were at this morning's presser) were all DNC delegates who, along with Coakley, voted for Hillary Clinton at the convention roll call last August, even though Clinton had released her delegates. Indeed, of the current women officeholders who voted for Clinton as DNC delegates that day, the only two who have not endorsed Coakley are Ruth Balser, who is in the midst of her own campaign for mayor of Newton; and Sheriff Andrea Cabral, who is supporting Alan Khazei, according to today's Globe.

Cabral's decision reportedly stems from a personal connection with Khazei, but regardless, her absence made this morning's gathering all-white, which didn't help suppress thoughts of the Clinton-Obama battles. Also, Coakley has not yet received endorsements from any of the three women officeholders (all black) who cast delegate votes for Obama. Linda Dorcina-Forry is backing Michael Capuano (who, BTW, endorsed Obama in January 2008), and neither Willie Mae Allen or Gloria Fox has endorsed, to my knowledge.

One final note on this. As you've probably noticed, the Senate candidates are doing everything they can to invoke the name and spirit of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, to coyly imply that they would be the Senator most apt for replacing him. That was evident this morning, with both Coakley, and Murray in her introduction, repeatedly mentioning Kennedy -- and, in particular, his devotion to women's issues.

But back in late January 2008, when Kennedy endorsed Obama, Murray publicly lit into him, accusing him of betraying women. Her comments were not received well at all, by those close to Kennedy (and those supporting Obama). That memory has not faded, I promise you. We have already seen one Kennedy family member endorse a Coakley competitor in this race. Anything that brings back memories of the nasty battle lines drawn during that Clinton-Obama nomination fight can only make it easier for more of the family to do the same.

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