- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, leads the pack of presidential hopefuls in the so-called “endorsement primary.”

Earlier this month, Mr. Gephardt announced endorsements from 30 House colleagues, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, and Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat.

“We’re extremely pleased,” said Gephardt spokesman Kim Molstre. “But we expect to get many more.”

Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, has the second-highest number of endorsements from congressional colleagues — 12 — from eight states, including fellow Connecticut Democratic Sen. Christopher J. Dodd.

Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat, has rounded up support from six congressmen from his state and one more from Texas. Mr. Edwards is followed by Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, who is supported by fellow Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and three other members of Congress.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has endorsements from both Vermont senators and two House members.

Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, Illinois Democrat, has two congressional endorsements. Al Sharpton, New York activist, announced last week that he had support from Rep. Jose E. Serrano, New York Democrat.

Sen. Bob Graham, Florida Democrat, and Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio Democrat, haven’t listed any endorsements. Mr. Graham’s office said he has not yet sought endorsements from fellow legislators.

Mr. Gephardt’s front-runner status was expected because he led the House Democrats from 1994 to 2002. But some wondered if he’d be considered damaged goods among colleagues after Democrats under his leadership lost seats in the last election.

“Dick served with many of these people over the years and is close friends with many of them,” Miss Molstre said. “He’s very proud of these endorsements.”

Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report said, “The endorsement primary is important for Gephardt among members of the House. He’s been around a long time and he’s been down this road before.”

Several campaign staffers for other candidates said it’s too early to pay much attention to these endorsements. But Miss Duffy said if Mr. Gephardt had done poorly among his colleagues, the press and potential donors would have noticed.

With four senators running for president and loyalties in play, she said, the “endorsement primary” is less important for now.

“There’s nothing to be gained by getting into it at this point,” Miss Duffy said.

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