Boston, Mass. (CNSNews.com) - Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy is expected to endorse Vice President Al Gore, possibly as early as this week.
The endorsement is expected to be announced in New Hampshire, possibly before this week's Gore-Bradley debate set for Wednesday night on the campus of the University of New Hampshire.
The Bay State senator's blessing can't come soon enough for Gore, who is facing a stiff challenge in this first-in-the-nation-primary state from former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley. The Gore and Kennedy camps had discussed the possibility of having the endorsement initially made in Iowa, home to the first caucuses.
Kennedy and Gore have long shared a close relationship in the U.S. Senate, so the endorsement comes as no surprise. However, given Gore's difficulties in New Hampshire, the endorsement had been expected earlier.
Meanwhile, today's endorsement of Texas Gov. George W, Bush by former challenger Elizabeth Dole was characterized as "significant" by New Hampshire Republican State Chairman Steve Duprey.
"She has a good following up here. She's very popular. She could easily be a running mate. She's presidential timber," Duprey said.
While the Bush camp worked to maximize the importance of the Dole endorsement, McCain staffers worked to downplay it, insisting it will have little impact on undecided voters.
"Our campaign is about message, about reforming Washington, not endorsements," said a McCain spokesman. "Voters are moving to us because of McCain's message.
One Bush source said there was talk of Dole making the endorsement one of two days prior to the February 1st primary, thus partially taking credit for a Bush win in a close primary contest.
Other Republicans also questioned the value of Dole's endorsement.
"Her New Hampshire campaign was dreadful because she had no message," said one GOP activist, who spoke to CNSNews.com on condition of anonymity. "She is really not presidential caliber and the fact that she dropped out was evidence of that and not her lack of money."
"All that talk about her bringing women into the party who will now vote for Bush is silly," said another. "Bush already has strong female support. What he needs is a vice president who can help him deal with the nightmare of Washington politics, as well as someone with strong foreign policy experience. That's McCain, not Elizabeth Dole."