It's true that endorsements aren't generally too important in modern politics. It's not like the old days when powerful machine politicians could ensure delivering certain voting blocks. Now it's mostly a mild positive that may sway a few voters but usually not more than that.
But some endorsements do seem to matter still, because a few figures do have the stature to really sway large numbers of people.
Obama benefited a lot from one of those figures, Oprah. While polling seems to indicate that her support has been a mixed bag for her own popularity (many women who support Clinton were upset) I think Oprah meant a lot for Obama in the early going. Oprah, like Obama (Tiger Woods, Wil Smith, Halle Berry) has moved beyond any sort of racially-limited identity. Oprah is the most powerful woman in entertainment. Period. Not the most powerful black woman. The most powerful woman.
Monday it appears that Obama will get another one of those important endorsements -- the blessing of the Kennedys.
It's hard to overstate how much this helps. Growing up in Massachusetts, I've seen the Kennedy mystique in action. While not a political fan of theirs by any means, there is no denying that no one holds the soul of the Democratic party like they do. Indeed, as much as Bill Clinton has his defenders, I think all Democrats would agree that their "finest hours" were the Days of Camelot. Deep in their hearts Democrats believe that the assassinations of JFK and RFK (and MLK) robbed the country of a bright future.
Caroline Kennedy's endorsement Sunday, and Ted's on Monday officially pass the mantle of Camelot to Barack Obama. Democrats may have some fond memories of Clinton's term, but those memories can't compare to Camelot.
Kennedy reportedly plans active campaigning on Obama's behalf, prompted in large part by his disgust at the Clintons' tactics in January.
One also detects a major shift in liberal sentiment on the Clintons. Opinon pieces with titles like "Was The Right Right About Clinton" do not bode well for Hillary and Bill. Because, of course, the Right was right about the Clintons. Not in the silly Vince Foster crap and stuff like that. But they were right in judging the essential amoral character of the power pair. Watching the Clinton camp attack a fellow Democrat has opened a lot of eyes.