Continued from page 1

When Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton began her bid for the White House, the Kennedy endorsement was considered hers to lose. Caroline Kennedy later told reporters it was her children’s interest in the Obama candidacy that initially sparked her support, which helped to convince her beloved “Uncle Teddy.”

Click here to see a timeline of Mr. Kennedy’s life.

Clinton insiders said at the time the former first lady was hurt when her longtime friend chose her rival, but she dispatched campaign aides to trumpet her big win in Mr. Kennedy’s home state of Massachusetts despite the endorsement and noted she was backed by other Kennedy family members.

Once Mr. Obama and Mr. Kennedy began meeting, former campaign insiders said, it became clear they were matched in temperament and ambition, and the candidate’s aides viewed the endorsement as an important prize.

As Super Tuesday approached, Mr. Kennedy returned to the rigors of a national campaign, summoning up fire for Mr. Obama from California to Connecticut.

The news that Mr. Kennedy was diagnosed with brain cancer broke in May 2008 as Mr. Obama was making a campaign stop at an Oregon hospital to talk about his health care plan.

Mr. Obama relied on Mr. Kennedy for advice throughout the campaign and as he built his White House staff after winning the election. Kennedy aides and allies are sprinkled throughout the Obama administration, including senior positions such as White House counsel, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and deputy secretaries of state and defense.

Hours into his presidency, Mr. Obama was faced with the jarring realization Mr. Kennedy’s death may be more imminent than he anticipated, as the senator collapsed during the congressional luncheon following his inauguration.

The president remained in close contact with Mr. Kennedy, and as his condition worsened, with the senator’s wife, Vicki. Mr. Obama hand-delivered a note from Mr. Kennedy to Pope Benedict XVI during a July visit to the Vatican. The president and Mr. Kennedy spoke June 2 about health care for less than 10 minutes, the White House said.

There was speculation that during his stay at Martha’s Vineyard Mr. Obama would visit Mr. Kennedy in nearby Hyannis Port, Mass. But the visit never materialized.

Now Mr. Obama formally assumes the mantle without his political mentor at his side and charges forward on Mr. Kennedy’s life’s passion for health care reform, buoyed perhaps by new momentum from lawmakers seeking to honor their friend.

WhiteHouse.gov on Wednesday offered a tribute to Mr. Kennedy, posting several intimate staff photos taken during Mr. Obama’s final moments with his friend this spring.

In one, Mr. Kennedy is shown being an active participant in the president’s March 5 health care forum at the White House.

The two are seen laughing on April 21 as Mr. Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act expanding the Peace Corps and other service groups in his friend’s honor, saying his friend had “touched the life of this nation.”

Story Continues →