Kennedy dynasty divides over Democrat candidates

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The Independent US

The Kennedy clan, America's largest political dynasty, is as sharply divided as the Democratic Party ahead of today's vote, with many members supporting Barack Obama while others campaign for Hillary Clinton.

Maria Shriver, niece of JFK, showed up at a rally in Los Angeles on Sunday after deciding at the last moment that she needed to make a stand for Barack Obama. The crowd went wild with enthusiasm at the sight of four of America's most formidable women – Oprah Winfrey, Caroline Kennedy, Michelle Obama and Ms Shriver – on stage for Mr Obama.

"I thought, if Barack Obama was a state, he'd be California," Ms Shriver said and the crowd roared back as she ticked off his credentials: "Diverse. Open. Smart. Independent. Bucks tradition. Innovative. Inspirational. Dreamer. Leader." She was there because she wanted "an America that's about unity".

But the Kennedy clan are anything but united. "Within the family, for the first time you have different opinions," said Ms Shriver's husband Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California and a John McCain supporter. "I've been in the family 30 years, and I've never seen that.

Ethel Kennedy, widow of Robert Kennedy, supports Mr Obama, along with JFK's daughter Caroline and congressman Patrick Kennedy. Three of Robert Kennedy's children – Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Robert Kennedy Jnr and Kerry Kennedy – have come out for Mrs Clinton.

There are also splits in other prominent Democratic dynasties. Jesse Jackson and his son, Jesse Jnr, are backing the Obama campaign. But Mr Jackson's wife Jacqueline is a Clinton supporter.

Ms Shriver's failure to agree with her husband on politics surprised no one, given her family background. But despite phone calls from Mr Obama, she wavered until the last minute, eventually going straight to the rally from her daughter's showjumping event, with hair unbrushed and without make-up.