Obama backs McGinty, Shapiro in Pa. primary

    Pennsylvania attorney general candidate Josh Shapiro speaks with reporters in Center City about the endorsement he received from President Obama. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    Pennsylvania attorney general candidate Josh Shapiro speaks with reporters in Center City about the endorsement he received from President Obama. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    President Obama has endorsed Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro in his campaign for Pennsylvania attorney general and Katie McGinty in her bid for the U.S. Senate.

    It’s common for the president to endorse members of his own party in general elections. But here, Obama’s taking sides in a couple of family feuds — primary battles among Democrats. Why? Relationships matter in politics.

    When Obama was battling Hillary Clinton for the presidential nomination, Shapiro helped him the hard-fought Pennsylvania primary.

    “I endorsed him very early in the 2008 campaign and had the chance to campaign with him across parts of Pennsylvania, including on a whistlestop train tour of the Main Line,” Shapiro said at a morning news conference.

    I spoke to David Axelrod, who was Obama’s media strategist in his two presidential campaigns.

    “He doesn’t intervene in primaries very often,” Axelrod said. “When he does, there’s a personal association or a sense that the race is important, and the candidate he supports is the most formidable in the general election.”

    The McGinty pick seems to fit the second category.

    Winning the Pennsylvania Senate seat is a high priority for Democrats, and McGinty has been endorsed by the national Democratic Senate Campaign Committee in her three-way primary.

    “I’m so honored,” McGinty said in a phone interview. “It really adds to the momentum, the excitment we are feeling in this campaign.”

    She already has a fundraising appeal out citing Obama’s support.

    Katie Colaneri contributed to this report.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.