City Councilor endorses long-shot presidential hopeful
Likely overshadowed by a certain high-ranking state official’s recent endorsement of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, local Boston City Councilor John Tobin last month announced his chief executive pick for 2008.
Gov. Deval Patrick, the state’s first African-American governor, is throwing his weight behind his former colleague from Chicago’s bid to be the first African-American US president. And Tobin is going with a former city councilor, Democratic Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware.
Tobin gave his endorsement on the steps of the State House in mid-October, along with a host of state legislators, his City Council colleague Bill Linehan, Brookline Selectman Robert Allen and former state Rep. Tim Basset.
“Councilor Linehan and I call ourselves ‘Boston for Biden,’” Tobin joked. Polling at 2 to 5 percent both nationally and in the early primary states, Biden so far hasn’t managed to rally a much more substantial crowd anywhere else, either. But Tobin said he respects the veteran senator for his long and storied political career, common sense and integrity.
Tobin said he also appreciates the candidate’s personal touch. The two met two years ago, he said.
“He told me City Council is the toughest political job in America. I thought he was being a little condescending and I said, ‘Well, yeah, the Senate is probably tougher,’” Tobin said.
But, Tobin said, Biden told about serving on City Council in New Castle, Del., before he was elected to the Senate. Biden said he “couldn’t wait to get out of there,” Tobin said.
Tobin said he also appreciated receiving a personally written note from Biden after they met.
On the issues, Tobin said he supports the senator’s “sensible plans for getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan.”
According to his campaign web site, Biden supports the institution of a federalized system of government in Iraq, where 90 percent of the votes cast in the last election divided along ethnic lines, with three separate regions for the Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite populations. He also calls for an oil revenue sharing program among the three regions.
Biden has also shown leadership, Tobin said, in pushing for adequate care for veterans returning from the fronts where the US is currently engaged. On the domestic front, Tobin pointed to Biden’s authorship of the 1996 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
“I like a political candidate who you know clearly where they stand,” Tobin said.
In addition to what he repeatedly described as Biden’s “common sense,” Tobin also said he thinks the senator is the most electable of the candidates in the general election.
“It’s all about November,” Tobin said.
He admitted, however, that Biden has a tough row to hoe for the Democratic nomination.
“Unfortunately, at this level, money trumps all,” Tobin said. “I wish people could get into a room and listen to the guy.”
Tobin said he still has hope, however, in the storied retail politics of Iowa and New Hampshire. Recalling his experience in Iowa working for Sen. John Kerry’s campaign in 2004, Tobin pointed out that, at that point, the eventual nominee was “running sixth in the polls.”
In Iowa the presidential candidates “run as if they are running for district City Council,” Tobin said.
While working for Kerry, Tobin fondly recalled being able to go out and “see Dean, Gephardt and Kucinich” speaking to constituents hard-hit by deindustrialization and the decline of agriculture. The candidates faced hard questions about national social issues including jobs, healthcare and education, Tobin said.
“I tell everyone, all of my [office interns] and all of the high school kids and college kids I talk to, if you are interested in politics get out to Iowa. It is an experience,” Tobin said.
The city councilor said he hopes to get to Iowa this year, but his wife recently had a baby, and the Jan. 3 caucus date may conflict with his swearing in for the new term in City Council.
Tobin’s wife Kate Plunkett Tobin, on Nov. 19 gave birth to the couple’s second child, Daniel Joseph Plunkett Tobin.
If he does not make it to Iowa, Tobin is planning, at least, to take some day trips up to New Hampshire, he said.
Lamenting the extra attention lavished on the early states, Tobin said he thinks presidential elections could be run more equitably. “Last time I checked there were 50 states,” he said.
“Maybe we could divide the country into quarters and rotate them. I am not sure if there is a fair way to do it,” Tobin said.
On the Republican side, Tobin predicted former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will be the nominee.
“And he will be hard to beat,” Tobin said. “He is a charmer.”