Hillary Claims an Edwards Guy in New Hampshire

Just over an hour ago, Hillary Clinton claimed the endorsement of an influential New Hampshire politician who was one of John Edwards’ top supporters in the state in 2004.

Lou D’Allesandro, a well-liked state senator from Manchester and a fixture in the city’s political and cultural life, gave Clinton his blessing at a forum for disabled voters in his hometown this morning. In 2004, D’Allesandro was one of the few big-name New Hampshire Democrats to back Edwards, who finished a very distant third in that year’s primary. It was initally expected that he’d back Edwards again in ’08, and Elizabeth Edwards even made a trip to Manchester last October to headline a fundraiser for D’Allesandro’s state Senate campaign.

The Clinton campaign hopes to sell this endorsement as a sign that the attack-the-frontrunner strategy of Edwards and Barack Obama will backfore. Without mentioning Edwards by name, D’Allesandro said his decision to back Hillary crystalized while watching Tuesday’s Democratic debate, in which Edwards offered sharp criticisms of Clinton.

“At the debate, Hillary demonstrated that she is the only candidate with a strong, positive message,” D’Allesandro said. “I believe she can deliver the real change our country needs.”

D’Allesandro, 69, has served in the Senate for the past decade, and ran for Governor in 1982. He was also the head basketabll coach at New Hampshire College (now Southern New Hampshire University) in the 1960s. One of his successors in that role was P.J. Carlesimo. who went on to lead Seton Hall University to the Final Four and who now coaches the NBA’s Seattle Sonics.