IT'S a good bet Falmouth Kearney could never have predicted this. As you probably do not recall, Kearney is the Irish immigrant who arrived in New York at the height of the Famine and relocated to the Midwest, where he raised eight children.

One of those eight children, a daughter, married into a clan by the name of Dunham, and one of the Dunham descendents went on to marry a Kenyan immigrant named Barack Obama, Senior.

Perhaps you've heard of their son?

When it comes to politics, what seems like a big story this week can fade very quickly. And that may very well happen to the Obama juggernaut.

Nevertheless, at least when it comes to the Irish American vote, the two leading Democratic candidates are battling over different aspects of the Irish experience.

There is, of course, Senator Hillary Clinton, who worked with her husband and his administration to bring peace to Northern Ireland.

Then there is Obama, whose Irish roots are quite distant, and overshadowed by his race. Nevertheless, it is becoming clear that Obama is attempting to harness some kind of Kennedy spirit.

You might think I mean John F. Kennedy, who was the first Catholic to win the White House, while Obama would be the first African American. But it seems a better comparison is Robert F. Kennedy, arguably the more Irish Catholic of the two Kennedy brothers, and the one who invoked the kind of deep passion on the campaign trail when he ran (and was ultimately assassinated) 40 years ago.

After all, it is no secret that Obama is a darling among young and other normally apathetic voters, just as Bobby Kennedy was. Clearly his youth and what can be called inexperience are actually benefiting Obama (at least for now) as they did RFK.

But there's no reason to believe Obama's connection to Ireland is limited to the Famine and a Kennedy. As is well known, Dublin-born professor and human rights advocate Samantha Power is a close adviser to Obama when it comes to foreign policy matters.

As it stands today, this seems like a match made in heaven. Obama is a rising political star who seems to have tapped into something magical. Even if that star eventually fades, that is quite an accomplishment.

As for Power, she has quite a resume in her own right. She is a Harvard professor and has already won a Pulitzer Prize for her book A Problem From Hell.

Like Obama, she is quite young and telegenic, and is also a regular on the TV talk show circuit. As luck would have it, Power -- whose parents came to the U.S. from Ireland when she was nine -- has a new book coming out next month.

The interesting thing about the Power-Obama pairing, however, is that it did not happen just yesterday. Power joined Obama when he first won election to the Senate back in 2005, when -- with all due respect -- the only things on his rsum were a couple of terms in the Illinois state senate.

To her credit, Power saw something in Obama and, for now, she is watching American history from the front row.

And Power is not making grand pronouncements from the ivory tower and hoping the voters are swayed by her brilliance. She has been pounding the pavement on the campaign trail. Last month, she gave a series of talks in South Carolina, a key state which will hold its primary later this month.

Power discussed efforts to combat global terrorism. She prefers an approach which focuses on alleviating poverty and other problems, rather than turning to the military. It is worth noting that Power opposed the Iraq war.

"We're obsessed with South Carolina. So much will turn on what happens here," she was quoted as saying.

Asked if Obama does not have the experience to be president, she said, "The more you see him, the more those doubts about a first term senator and him being young melt away."

Maybe. Or maybe voters will decide that those Iowans don't know what they're doing, and decide that experience is a pretty good thing, and vote for Hillary -- or, on the other side, John McCain.

For now, though, Obama is in a pretty good spot. And down the road, Falmouth Kearney might join Patrick Kennedy (JFK) and Michael O'Regan (Ronald Reagan) as Irish immigrants who produced future presidents.

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