Obama endorses a few candidates, leaves many others wondering

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Former President Barack Obama has endorsed 81 Democratic candidates for public office across the country — including seven from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

Former President Barack Obama has endorsed 81 Democratic candidates for public office across the country — including seven from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

Former President Barack Obama has endorsed 81 Democratic candidates for public office across the country — including seven from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The list has inevitably left people wondering why some Democratic hopefuls in competitive races were not endorsed.

Montgomery County congressional candidate Madeleine Dean, running in a relatively safe Democratic district, got the president’s endorsement. Other Democrats, including Scott Wallace, running in a very competitive Bucks County race, didn’t.

In fact, Obama endorsed just five Pennsylvania candidates.

All are women. Two are congressional candidates, and three are running for the state legislature – two for the state House and one for the state Senate.

Obama said there will be more endorsements before the November election.

What’s the playbook?

The former president didn’t say a lot to explain his choices.

In a statement announcing the picks, Obama said he would prioritize races essential to taking back the House of Representatives and increasing Democratic strength in the Senate — and candidates recommended by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee.

He also said the endorsements include some “promising Obama administration and campaign alumni who heeded the president’s call in his farewell speech to ‘grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.’”

To understand the endorsement process a little better, I contacted Bucks County state Senate candidate Tina Davis, who got the president’s backing.

Did she ask for this? Was she vetted? How did she make the cut?

“Well, this sounds ridiculous,” she told me, “but I did not know I was getting endorsed.”

She said she was in a meeting and got a text from a number she didn’t recognize. Soon, she said, her phone was “blowing up with people congratulating me.”

A day later, Davis still had no idea who had recommended her or how the former president made his picks.

Congressional candidate Andy Kim is one of only two who made the list from New Jersey.

Though he served in the Obama and George W. Bush administrations, the endorsement came out of the blue.

“I found out when I saw on Twitter that people were circulating that I was endorsed by President Obama,” Kim told me.

Davis and Kim said they were deeply honored. Neither was exactly sure how to use the endorsement, but planned to make the most of it.

Davis is  a state representative who’s taking on 24-year incumbent Republican state Sen. Robert “Tommy” Tomlinson.

Kim is taking on two-term incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur in South Jersey.

Stay tuned

Veteran Democratic strategist Mark Nevins said the president’s endorsement can help with fundraising and boost turnout among core Democratic voters.

Does not making this list mean a Democratic candidate is being snubbed?

“No, usually these kinds of endorsements come in waves,” Nevins said. “So I would be surprised if this is the last we heard from President Obama.”

A spokeswoman confirmed there will be a second wave of endorsements before the election, and that Obama will campaign in several states this fall.

In Pennsylvania, Obama endorsed:

  • Madeleine Dean (candidate for U.S. House)
  • Susan Wild (candidate for U.S. House)
  • Tina Davis (candidate for state Senate)
  • Liz Hanbidge (candidate for state House)
  • Carolyn Comitta (candidate for state House)

In New Jersey, he endorsed Andy Kim and Tom Malinowski in their bids for the U.S. House.

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