WASHINGTON – While many of his presidential rivals are pursuing endorsements from mainstream groups such as labor unions, Democrat Dennis Kucinich (search) has cornered the market on eclectic endorsements.
The latest come from Doris "Granny D" Haddock (search), a 93-year-old New Hampshire woman who walked coast-to-coast two years ago to support a rewrite of campaign finance laws, and Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and leader of the M.K. Gandhi Institute of Nonviolence.
Other endorsements for Kucinich's White House bid: actor Ed Asner (search), country music singer Willie Nelson, lifestyle guru Marianne Williamson and author Studs Terkel.
"Maybe that is the real America," said Henry Graff, a presidential historian and professor at Columbia University. "It might help get a large body of young people that often don't go to the polls ... a constituency that would be more influenced by Nelson than by other politicians."
Kucinich, a four-term congressman from Cleveland, is considered a long-shot candidate among nine Democrats vying for the party's presidential nomination. He trails the pack in money raised as well as name recognition.
But the lawmaker argues that this growing list of high-profile support, which also includes actors Peter Coyote, James Cromwell, Hector Elizondo and Elliott Gould, could turn that around.
"If people whose names that are virtually household words are supporting my campaign, it's likely that with their help 'Kucinich' will soon be a household word," he said, describing how people at recent July 4th parades yelled out, "Say 'hi' to Willie."'
"They were excited about it. And I'm hearing today about Granny D. People know who she is," said Kucinich, who once walked across Ohio in an unsuccessful bid for governor.
Kucinich said he's still seeking support from mainstream unions and associations.
Among his rivals, Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut have the backing of several labor unions. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts announced Wednesday that Ben Lujan, the House Speaker in New Mexico, supported his candidacy.
However, Graff said there is likely a strategy behind Kucinich announcing, for example, that Ben & Jerry's Homemade ice cream founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield support him.
"It isn't accidental. It's cool, as the kids would say. And why aren't Ben and Jerry as cool and worthy to be listened to as Newt Gingrich endorsing a candidate?" Graff said.