Nancy Keenan of NARAL Prochoice America further explained her decision to endorse Barack Obama for the general election when he's still in a neck-and-neck primary** with another strong pro-choice Democrat, a decision which has pissed off NARAL supporters (Obama supporters like former NARAL director Kate Michelman among them) and forced several state affiliates to declare that they were not part of the decision and remain neutral until there's a Democratic nominee. And, surprise! Money played a role:
In an interview with Politico, NARAL President Nancy Keenan said the group’s nine-member political action committee chose Obama after extensive deliberation that included studying the two Democratic candidates’ delegate counts (both pledged and superdelegates), their viability in a matchup against the presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, and their cash on hand.Hm. Sounds like someone wanted to get her hands on Obama's donor list, even if it meant driving away longtime donors and supporters:
But there was something larger at work in this endorsement, Keenan said. “Right now, when you have the mobilization of a new generation of people coming and participating in this democracy, there’s a moment when they are listening, and in my judgment, they are listening now.”Keenan also said that everyone would get over their "broken hearts." And if they don't, I guess she's got a list of shiny new donors to keep her warm! Even though, last I checked, one's best bet for increasing one's donor base was bringing in new donors while also not alienating older ones.
When asked about affiliate directors’ concerns about losing donors, Keenan was reflective. “We did not go into this not knowing that there are consequences. Politics are about choices. ... What is missing here is, this is not a spectator sport. When you’re involved in politics, not everybody is happy, and you just have to recognize that.”
Keenan, however, is not noted for her political astuteness in making endorsements, nor for her tenacity in actually advocating for choice. You know, the single issue of the organization? After endorsing Joe Lieberman*** and Lincoln Chaffee for Senate in 2006, Keenan used the retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor as a fundraising opportunity, but then not only sat on her hands when the time came to do something about Alito, but also refused to consider the Lieberman and Chaffee votes for cloture against them on the NARAL scorecard. The problem, as Jane Hamsher notes in that post, is that NARAL tends to suck up all the pro-choice donor money, which means that no one else can effectively advocate. And since Nancy Keenan is no Kate Michelman, that means that donors aren't getting a whole lot of bang for their buck; instead, they're getting inaction and really dumb political moves that are bad for the cause:
A number of feminist donors — including several Obama supporters — were shaking their heads at the timing, said a source who has worked on women’s health and reproductive rights issues for 25 years and meets routinely with top contributors to the cause. “Without exception, the response was, 'It’s a really stupid thing to do,'” said the source.And how's this for misdirection?
And even former NARAL Pro-Choice America President Kate Michelman, who is working on behalf of Obama, was taken by surprise, saying she learned of the endorsement only when a reporter called her. Although she wouldn’t comment on the timing, she was clearly worried about damage to the larger cause of women’s rights. “I don’t think there’s any question that there are strong Obama supporters who are pro-choice who are surprised by the decision, and probably some are upset by the decision, because NARAL’s mission is of course to protect women’s liberty — especially reproductive rights, but women’s liberty in general.”...
Even some Obama supporters, while ultimately believing that their candidate is the strongest on these issues, were unhappy with its handling, said [Kelli] Conlin [president of the New York state NARAL affiliate]. “The supporters of Obama that I know on our board and in our membership thought it was ill-timed and ill-advised and really antithetical to people coming together in common purpose to beat John McCain,” she said.
Given the “massive healing” needed to keep Clinton’s staunchest women supporters in the fold should Obama become the nominee, Conlin said, the endorsement was like “throwing a flaming spear into a tinderbox of raw emotion.”
Keenan noted it’s not the first time the national organization has endorsed early in the Democratic primary process. NARAL endorsed Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts when former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards was still in the race in 2004, she said, and chose former Vice President Al Gore over former Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey in 2000.Yeah, except for a few things. First, May isn't "early" in the primary, it's late; the voting is all but over and the contest is still undecided, so why not wait for a couple of weeks if you've waited this long? Second, John Kerry won 46 state primaries and had the race wrapped up on Super Tuesday, March 2. The Gore endorsement came in February, after Gore won both Iowa and New Hampshire, and eventually won all the primaries.
* Deep Throat apparently never said this, at least not as reported in any of the Watergate coverage or in the book All The President's Men. It was a line from the movie, but it does prove useful.
** "But she can't win! The DELEGATE MATH! It's not neck-and-neck!" is not a talking point that I'm interested in entertaining in comments to this post. Obama can't win the nomination on pledged delegates alone, and he doesn't have the supers lined up to win at this moment, either. There are all kinds of metrics the superdelegates can and have been considering, which are not limited to pledged delegates. There's also electability, momentum, demographics, popular vote (yes, popular vote matters; after all, you can't discount popular vote in favor of delegates when delegates are awarded based on the popular vote), poll numbers, electoral-college strength, etc. etc. etc. IOW, this thing isn't over until one or the other candidates reaches the magic number, and pretending that there's a clear winner right now is delusional. So consider the "delegate math" talking point taken under advisement. Which means, you don't have to make it.
*** The national NARAL endorsement came even after Lieberman made his classic comments about a proposed state law that would require Catholic hospitals to stock and provide emergency contraception to rape victims admitted to the ER or face a cutoff of their state funding. Lieberman didn't know why the hospitals should be forced to provide standard care to rape victims, because Connecticut is a small state, and it's only a "short ride" from the state's Catholic hospitals to public hospitals. Because of these comments, the Connecticut NARAL affiliate and other local prochoice groups endorsed Lieberman's opponent in the Democratic primary, Ned Lamont.