People Getting Their Backs Scratched

An endorsement resembles a recommendation: This guy is a lot like me. If you trust me, you can trust her. I can support this candidate, so can you. Whom a candidate endorses tells us a lot about the candidate themselves.

But in the bizarre world of presidential politics, it may also mean giving favors in hopes of getting an endorsement in return. The idea is simple. I’ll support you and if you win, I would expect that you will support me in your state when I am running for president. Of course, nobody ever states it like that. And there are no guarantees. Sometimes the endorsee never becomes the endorser. Perhaps it was given in good faith after all.

But one cannot deny that the whole process can get ugly. The best recent historical example was when Al Gore refused to endorse his 2000 vice-presidential running mate, Joe Lieberman, when the latter ran for president in 2004. Gore instead announced on TV his endorsement of rival northeasterner, Vermont Governor Howard Dean. Ouch!

In high-profile elections, public pressure can push candidates to make endorsements. Sarah Palin endorsed an independent in the NY-23 House Race, Doug Hoffman, while Newt Gingrich endorsed his liberal Republican opponent, Dede Scozzafava. Meanwhile, pressure was put on Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee to endorse Hoffman. Romney kicked the can down the road, while Huckabee finally endorsed the weekend before the election, and only after Scozzafava dropped out. Bill Owens, the Democrat won. It’s doubtful these endorsements will affect anybody, except possibly Gingrich. He must explain why he endorsed a liberal. In the era of the Tea Party Movement, arguing for being a “party first” guy probably won’t help the former House Speaker much. Otherwise, most people will forget who endorsed whom in this one.

Sarah Palin announces many of her endorsements on her Facebook page. Some Palin supporters were not happy with her support of former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad in his bid for another bite at the apple. The Tea-Party favorite was Bob Vander Plaatz. But Branstad won the GOP nomination and so it is doubtful it will hurt her in the long run. On the other hand, if he becomes governor, that could help her, as well.

Huckabee, on the other hand, supports many state-wide and local office candidates. In addtion, he was the first of the Big Three to announce support of Marco Rubio in Florida.
One that could haunt Huckabee most is his endorsement and last minute campaigning for South Carolina governor candidate, Andre Bauer. The eventual winner was Nikki Haley (endorsed by Romney and Palin). Bauer was seen by some as contributing to specious rumors about Haley but Huckabee stuck with Bauer, nonetheless. South Carolina will likely be a key state and it is possible other candidates will exploit Huckabee’s endorsement of Bauer.

Romney is easily the biggest fan of endorsements, and he shows his support by handing out tons of money, too. At last count, he had endorsed US House, US Senate, and Governor candidates in at least 28 states. The biggest gambles have been by Mitt Romney. He has endorsed two candidates who are pro-abortion. Each endorsement has its own drawbacks. In the first one, Romney supported Maryland Governor candidate, Bob Ehrlich, over pro-life alternative Brian Murphy. The second case, where Romney chose to endorse Meg Whitman for governor of California, is much higher profile. The former CEO of Ebay does not need Romney’s money. And more importantly, Whitman not only supports the “right” to kill one’s own offspring, she also thinks Californians ought to pay for it, because, since it’s a right, no one should be denied one because of lack of money. (I wonder if she supports the 2nd amendment by handing out money for everybody to buy guns.)

It has been a struggle for Romney to convince many pro-life voters that his late conversion to the pro-life position was sincere. It might now be a virtual impossibility. After endorsing Whitman, what can Romney say? If he argues that California is a liberal state he has given strong evidence that he cannot be counted on to nominate only pro-life Justices to the Supreme Court. Resistance by 41 Democrats to his nominees would almost guarantee that he would nominate pro-death Justices instead. A claim of personal friendship with Whitman won’t help either.

Voters are not stupid. And interest groups, like pro-lifers, aren’t forgetful. The whole ordeal reinforces my original thesis: Endorsements tell more about the candidate doing the endorsing than the candidate being endorsed. Ultimately, it may not be about picking winners and losers, but rather how you played the game in 2010 that counts in 2012.

17 comments
  1. It’s sad that so many people are more concerned about benefitting themselves by making other people owe them than they are about endorsing the people who will be best for our country.

  2. The GOP is truly in a sad state with Huckabee and Palin appearing to be the frontrunners for 2012. At least I will enjoy watching Huckabee chew Palin up and spit her out before he gets the nomination.

  3. Making endorsments is not just about picking the candidate who happens to be pro-life. It is about picking the best candidate to run in the general election who will also do the best job once elected. That is what Mitt Romney does. Meg Whitman is clearly, and by far the best candidate for govenor in California. She may not be pro-life but she was more conservative than the other Republican candidate for govenor Steve Poizner. Meg Whitman is also Mitt Romney’s protege. He gave her her first job out of college. It only makes perfect sense that he would endorse her over less qualified candidates. Mitt Romney has endorsed over a hundred candidates. To suggest that because two of them happenned to be pro-choice makes him untrustworthy on the abortion issue is pretty absurd.

    1. All it means is that he is a pragmatist, not a principled politician. I reiterate. By what Romney principle can we count on that will assure us he will only nominate pro-lifers for the Supreme Court?

      As to your observation below about the two candidates holding the exact same voting block I can only say a couple of things.

      First, polls show that the combined voting for Huckabee and Palin is often over 50%. It is impossible that their totals consist of the same voters. IMPOSSIBLE. People can only vote for one candidate in a poll.

      Second, what is more likely than you suggest is that many (not all, of course) of the Palin voters will move to Huckabee if their only alternative is Romney. The same is true of the Huckabee voters moving to Palin. Or they might consider a move to a Pawlenty, Jindal, or Jeb Bush.

      1. David you seem to be a “single issue” type of guy. If the only qualification that matters to you is supporting only pro-life candidates then you are right. Mitt Romney may not do that 100% of the time. The problem with someone who has your type of tunnel vision logic on the issues of course is that if you support a candidate who is pro-life but is inferior in every other way then what you end up doing altimately is helping the Democrat into office. Is that what you want? I reiterate. Meg Whitman was by far the best candidate to run for govenor of California and was actually more conservative than her primary opponent. Again, it is absurd to suggest that Mitt Romney is in any way unprincipled because a couple of his endorsements were for candidates who happenned to be pro-choice.

      2. SVB, Thanks for your kind comments.

        “David you seem to be a “single issue” type of guy”

        Actually, there could be several issues that would make a candidate off-limits. But it would be a caricature to suggest that it is the only issue that matters to me. I want constitutional limits on government spending and regulation (Ron Paul or Paul Ryan come to mind), I am somewhat persuadable on many issues concerning foreign policy, I am not necessarily a get-US-out-the-Un guy but we should use it, not let is use us.

        “if you support a candidate who is pro-life but is inferior in every other way then what you end up doing altimately is helping the Democrat into office”

        I don’t support candidates for office who are inferior in every other way. I don’t know who you are talking about. In the past I have supported Howard Phillips, George Bush, and Mike Huckabee. I would likely support Palin, Jindal, Pawlenty, Daniels, and a host of others, including Iowa’s Steve King. Does that sound like tunnel vision? What you are saying is that if I don’t support Romney I am narrow-minded. But some people are so open-minded their brains are in danger of falling out.

        “…it is absurd to suggest that Mitt Romney is in any way unprincipled because a couple of his endorsements were for candidates who happenned to be pro-choice.”

        Perhaps we define “unprincipled” differently. You keeping using the words “be pro-choice” What if you used the phrase “fund the murder of US citizens” instead. If he only endorsed one such candidate, I assume you would question his character wouldn’t you?

  4. One more thing. Mike Huckabee is not going to chew up Sarah Palin and spit her out. They will chew eachother up and cancel eachother out, because they will be going for the exact same voter block, the “evangelical” vote. That’s good news for Romney. Everyone else will vote for him and he will win the nomination.

  5. Huckleberry only backstabs his opponents! Huckleberry can not be trusted! He threw Romney under the bus in 2008,refused to drop out of the race and endorse McCain until late in the game,therefore, helping to elect America,s Dictator Obumer! Never,ever, trust Gomer Huckleberry!

  6. I doubt either Huck or Palin are going to run, so it doesn’t really matter.

    As for Romney, this piece is a stretch. 98 out of 100 pro-life candidates is impressive, and nothing to criticize. CA is in grave financial distress, and Whitman is far and away the best choice. Besides, her opponent had no shot to win the primary.

    As a committed pro-lifer, I have no problem with Romney endorsing Whitman at all. Furthermore, I don’t believe there is any indication whatsoever that Romney will choose pro-choice Supreme Court nominees. In fact, it’s ludicrous to even suggest such a scenario. Romney was a committed pro-life governor, and he will be the same if he is elected POTUS.

    1. “As a committed pro-lifer, I have no problem with Romney endorsing Whitman at all”

      There is a non-sequitur if there ever was one.

      Try this little experiment: Every time you are tempted to use the word pro-choice replace it with words like “a supporter of child murder”

      What if I wrote: ” Whitman is far and away the best supporter of child murder”

    2. If “her opponent had no shot to win the primary” anyway, why bother to endorse the pro-abortion candidate? It seems that her position was not as distasteful to the former governor of Massachusetts as it is to me.

  7. This analysis of endorsements is pretty thin.

    1. There are many reasons besides a quid pro quo that motivate one person to endorse another. Loyalty and friendship (Palin’s endorsement of John McCain comes to mind, as does Romney’s endorsement of Whitman), a genuine desire to help the other’s campaign, and a general desire to build the party oftetn motivate endorsements.

    2. In the increasingly fragmented conservative movement, as many candidates and camps are trying to “out conservative” the others, definitives are thrown around much too often. You mention Bob Vander Plaatz as THE Tea Party favorite, as if some self-annointed committee has the right to apply that label to a candidate, especially in the face of two things: first, the movement is still fragmented with a major fault line being how libertarian the movement should be re: social issues and second, Sarah Palin herself is as definitive as any other in identifying what is an acceptable TP candidate. The fact that she endorsed against Vander Plaatz suggests that Vander Plaatz was not THE TP candidate. The same can be said about Andre Bauer in South Carolina. Haley had been an anti-establishment legislator and had long since justified her TP bona fides. Bauer, running as the sitting LG, had a hard time establishing a pre-eminent claim to the TP label, though he desperately tried during the campaign.

    3. Some writers from the fringes of the conservative movement, in an effort to prove their own fidelity to ideological purity, are willing to twist endorsements to mean something that they may not. Your description of Romney’s Whitman endorsement is to that point. Neither viable candidate running for the nomination was pro-life. (There were vanity candidates who were pro-life. Collectively, the 6 other candidates received less than 9% of the votes cast.) Another way of describing the endorsement would be that Romney endorsed Whitman because of his friendship and respect for her, earned during years of working together, that there was no viable pro-life candidate in the race, and that her election would be beneficial to family values in many ways other than abortion issues. It is ludicrous to compare the quixotic campaigns of anonymous pro-life candidates v Jerry Brown and the CA Dem/Union machine to resistance b 41 Dem senators. Drawing a conclusion that Romney would be unreliable on selecting pro-life judges because of this endorsement, or Ehrlich’s for that matter, appears to be intentionally misleading.

    1. 1. I never suggested quid pro quo was the only reason endorsements are given. At the end of that paragraph I suggested that perhaps the endorsement was given in good faith after all.
      2. My point was that many Palin supporters were unhappy with her endorsement of Branstad, not that every Tea Party participant favored Vanderplaatz. Some supported Roberts, and some no doubt supported Brandstad. I would add however, that you have flipped the Tea Party movement on its head if you suggest that you can determine what the TP wanted by what Palin decided. If the TP movement means anything, it means they pick their own leaders.
      3. Supposedly Romney endorsements carry weight. He should have endorsed the pro-life candidate in Maryland. No one forced him to endorse in California. My theory stands. If Romney thinks he can’t get a pro-life Justice through, he will send a “conservative” pro-child killing nominee through. Why should we think different? He is not a man of principle on this issue. You claim that 98 out of a 100 are pro-life. Can you support that notion? Even so, if a man kills only 2 of a 100 residents of a city he is not pro-life.

      1. This meme that “Romney is not principled” is both laughable and infuriating at the same time. Aside from evangelical’s who, in reality don’t like his religion, but instead hide behind his long-ago STATEMENTS on abortion while running in a MASSACHUSETTS general election to state that he’s not truly pro-life, there’s no one else complaining that Romney is not principled (political shills for other contenders will pile on here as well I guess). It’s actually pretty sickening.

        QUICK TEST: Name to me the last pro-life politician to win federal office or statewide office in that state who ran on a pro-life platform . . . Please don’t tell me you’re thinking of Scott Brown . . . or anyone else in the last 30+ years.

        Romney’s personal and professional life exude a history of a PRINCIPLED living. There’s no shed of any scandal or quid pro quo in any aspect of his life, and this is quite amazing for someone who’s been a CEO, a politician, and a leader in his local church congregations. Having seen his history long-term, it’s funny to realize that the only “scandal” that came out was during his MA runs and that he “pressured” at least one woman in his church congregations not NOT get an abortion. This was a major issue in those campaigns because they were saying that Romney was really a hard core pro-lifer and that he couldn’t be trusted on the issue. Looks like both sides like to exploit that one, eh?

        I know Mitt personally and I feel 100% confidence in concluding that Romney is more principled than a blogger trying to score points for his favored candidate(s) with a piece like this. That is all.

      2. “in reality don’t like his religion”

        That is a red herring to distract us not only from Romney’s history but also his current position.

        ” but instead hide behind his long-ago STATEMENTS on abortion while running in a MASSACHUSETTS general election”

        Your statement is self-contradictory. You are unquestionably implying that Romney stated his position the way he did because he was in a death-loving state and should be “forgiven”. That is exactly not a definition of principled. It is at best pragmatic, and at worst self-serving.

        The fact that no pro-lifer can be elected in Massachusetts proves too much. You just proved Mitt wasn’t pro-life, all his and your protests to the contrary.

  8. This article assumes that conservatves vote primarily based on the pro-life credentials of the candidate. And even though I am VERY pro-life, I am not someone who is willing to watch Obama II or some candidate with little to no economic recovery experience cause a repeat of of ’08. Someone is willing to throw the candidate with the greatest economic turnaround experience under the bus because he nominates Meg Whitman? Conservatives need to unite while there is still a reasonable chance of eliminating this deficit and recovering from this joke of an administration.

    What a nightmare, Obama gets re-elected because our nominee is Palin or Huckleberry. Great people but they don’t have what it takes to win nation wide or debate Obama.

    Romney clearly is .

    1. Thanks Chad for your comments.

      I don’t assume any certain percentage of “conservative” voters will vote a certain way. I know that for some pro-lifer voters the Whitman endorsement would be a deal-breaker. Why is that Romney supporters can’t make their case without resorting to name calling? Huckleberry?

      Re-uniting takes place after a nomination is secured. There is no reason to “unite” around Romney. Let him make the case. There are lots of conservatives for whom unborn babies is not their issue. But they may think Romneycare is evidence of a big government mentality in Romney.

      “Great people but they don’t have what it takes to win nation wide or debate Obama. Romney clearly is (sic) .”

      The statement is clearly so subjective it requires no response.

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