Two-term Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, the first woman to ever lead the National Governors' Association, will endorse Barack Obama's presidential campaign later today, The Bourbon Room has learned.
Napolitano has scheduled a televised press conference in Arizona for later today and will follow up with a telephone conference call organized by Obama's campaign.
The endorsement gives Obama a nice boost in Nevada, where Napolitano is highly regarded among party regulars and has a higher visibility than most neighboring governors among those with a passing interest in politics -- i.e., likely caucus attendees on Jan. 19.
Napolitano was named by Time magazine recently as one of the nation's top five governors and was the first governor to deploy National Guard forces to the border to stem the flow of illegal immigration.
Napolitano also pushed for and won the creation of voluntary all-day kindergarten. She also raised teacher salaries and boosted health insurance coverage for children. While not identical, these innovations resemble concepts Obama has stressed on the campaign trail.
Obama is looking to convey to party insiders that the New Hampshire primary setback wasn't devastating and that he's still in the ballgame. The string of Obama endorsements since leaving New Hampshire has been impressive from a party-insider perspective: Culinary Union 226 in Las Vegas, Nevada Service Employee International Union, Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Rep. George Miller of California and, now, Napolitano.
Do these endorsement moves votes? Culinary and SEIU in Nevada will make an enormous difference in the Jan. 19 caucuses -- probably the decisive difference. Kerry brings an e-mail list of donors and cachet among rank-and-file Democrats who may still have doubts about Obama's readiness for the Oval Office. With Miller in northern California, Obama gets a congressman with something few others have -- a real political organization that can deliver votes. Miller's also House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's top lieutenant and that association, even if arms length, helps Obama among party regulars.