Carol Shea-Porter, who was elected last year to represent the eastern half of New Hampshire in Congress, has decided to endorse Barack Obama. This is easily the most significant Granite State endorsement for Obama and one that could have a ripple effect.
Shea-Porter’s political history explains why. A former social worker and a true grass-roots activist, her frustration with the Iraq war and the Bush administration led her to run for Congress last year. Immediately, she was opposed by local, state and national Democratic organizations — including Rahm Emanuel and the D.C.C.C., which endorsed her primary opponent, the then-Democratic leader of the state House of Representatives. With her bare-bones budget, volunteer staff, and complete lack of name recognition, Shea-Porter was expected to be trounced in the Democratic primary. Instead, she mobilized unprecedented grassroots support, organizing individual towns like no Democrat had ever done before in her part of New Hampshire, and won the primary by a staggering 14 points.
In the general election, where she faced two-term G.O.P. incumbent Jeb Bradley, she was again written off. Emanuel’s D.C.C.C. ignored her once again, believing that she was too inexperienced a candidate (and too liberal) to win in what is the more conservative of New Hampshire’s two districts. Long story short: She won again, beating Bradley by two points. A Democratic tide was a major factor — 2006 was probably the best year in history for the state’s Democrats — but her grass-roots army is unquestionably what put her over the top.
It is the deep, personal bond she has with the party’s grassroots that makes her endorsement of Obama particularly meaningful. This is not a case of some generic elected official with a title making an endorsement: This is a woman who is beloved by literally thousands of the most likely voters in January’s Democratic primary.