MONTEREY PARK, Calif. — Finding people eager to pour out their memories of the Kennedy family is easy here on Avenida Cesar Chavez, named for the labor leader Bobby Kennedy once famously embraced.
But whether this torrent of nostalgia will translate into votes for Barack Obama in light of his endorsement by the slain senator's brother, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., is another matter.
Andrew Douglas, an L.A. actor, remembers when he was 5 and running to shake RFK's hand during the '68 primary campaign. Tristen Sotomaoe, a non-profit company manager in East Los Angeles, grew up in a house where a picture of Bobby hung next to the pope. Mary Murphy, a San Gabriel Valley officer worker, remembers being "depressed" after Kennedy was assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel just a few miles from here.
They and so many others have been searching for 40 years for someone to rekindle that magic Kennedy feeling, to relive the days when Bobby reached out and touched them or John seemed personally to empower the black community.
Obama, fresh with endorsements from John's daughter, Caroline, and brother Ted, is reveling in the legacy. Caroline will join Michelle Obama and TV host Oprah Winfrey Sunday for a get out the vote rally in Los Angeles.
But Hillary Clinton is fighting back with some compelling history of her own — such as her husband, a hero to the sizeable Latino and black communities here.
"People here like both families," said Bob Mulholland, a California Democratic campaign adviser. "What you keep hearing is, 'there are two people I really like and I can't make up my mind.'"
Clinton's ties have helped vault her ahead in most polls. "People remember how his administration gave minorities access" to power they had rarely known, said Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., a leader in Los Angeles' black community.
But when it comes to the Kennedys, memory, not logic, fuels the surge of warm feelings. And in a close race, the newly knotted bond between Obama and the Kennedy family could make a difference.
Mulholland pointed to Caroline Kennedy's endorsement as crucial. "We see her every four years or so, usually at a national convention, and she rarely does anything else," he said.
Now, people are seeing an ad mingling her father's and Obama's faces. Then the famous daughter appears: "People always tell me how my father inspired them. I feel that same excitement now. Barack Obama can lift America, and make us one nation again."
The ad, which began running Tuesday in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Boston and Philadelphia, has helped trigger an outpouring, a chance for people to bask in what seems like a simpler, more hopeful time.
"We all watched her grow up. She's the closest thing to a princess we have," said Lisa Finkelstein, a Studio City clothing designer.
"When I hear Obama I hear echoes of the past," said Emily Hart-Holifield, a retired teacher. "I hear the echoes that brought us together."
Clinton countered the Caroline ad Friday with a spot featuring the image of Robert Kennedy as his son and Cesar Chavez' grandson give their support to her.
But Clinton may have a hard time overcoming the emotion evident in crowds like one that gathered at East Los Angeles College on a chilly morning last week to hear the last Kennedy lion remind them of what could've been and what could be.
At 75, Ted Kennedy's voice did not soar; the words were there, but his cadence was choppy and his voice hoarse. His message, though, was clear.
"The candidates are not greatly different in terms of the issues," he said, but Obama is a man "of empathy, a man of heart, a man of soul."
Rudy Salas, an East Los Angeles musician, had been uncertain about Obama, but the Kennedy connection nailed it. "I've been obsessed about that family since I was a kid," he explained.
Murphy, the San Gabriel Valley office worker, still wasn't sure.
"Obama reminds me of the Kennedys, that optimism and a freshness," she said. "But I like Clinton a lot too. I just can't decide."