CBS and others are reporting that Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy has been rushed to a hospital in Hyannis Port and subsequently airlifted to Mass General in Boston suffering from what CBS news describes as "stroke-like symptons:"
Elected in 1964, Kennedy has been a punching bag for conservatives almost since he arrived in the Senate. But the man the right loves to hate has made his mark in the history of the Senate largely by being master of the rules and traditions of that body.
The long-serving Massachusetts senator is a leading liberal voice in the United States who has actively campaigned for Barack Obama in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Kennedy had preventive surgery in Boston in October to unclog a partially blocked carotid artery in his neck.
The blockage was discovered during a routine check of Kennedy's back and spine, doctors said. A blocked carotid artery can lead to a stroke and death, they said.
Kennedy has suffered from back problems since a plane crash in 1964 in which the pilot and one of Kennedy's aides were killed and the senator was pulled from the wreckage with a back injury, punctured lung, broken ribs and internal bleeding.
He is also considered to be one of the finest orators alive today, still able to wow audiences as he proved barnstorming with Senator Obama prior to Super Tuesday.
Without romanticizing the man - who after all has several personal failings in his past that any ordinary American would have suffered much more severe consequences than Senator Kennedy faced - it is safe to say that he has been one of the most consequential figures in American politics in the 20th century.