Thursday, January 10, 2008

Endorsement Season Begins?

So what's the headline of the day?

John Kerry to endorse Barack Obama. As a former worker for Kerry my reaction is mixed.

It starts with, who cares? and develops into a yawn. Kerry may have a big email list, but also an ability to put his foot in his mouth. He's lousy on the stump, unlike Obama, and comes across with low marks on genuiness. So overall, a good get for Obama, a good story for 24 hours or so, but not sure where Kerry gains Obama many votes. Maybe some money, but not many votes.

Yet I remember in 2004 when in Iowa working for Kerry the reaction when Al Gore endorsed Dean instead of his loyal 2000 running mate Joe Lieberman. The Kerry camp was critical, myself included. Yet when the former nominee attempts to make himself relevant again, he does the same thing for which he was unhappy with Gore.

Kerry and Edwards must have had a real nasty breakup, as Kerry could have showed some class and loyalty by helping Edwards from the beginning. Personally think that Edwards recognized what me and many others who have worked for Kerry have learned. He's just not worth it.

Edwards response was pretty good.

“Our country and our party are stronger because of John’s service, and I respect his decision. When we were running against each other and on the same ticket, John and I agreed on many issues. I continue to believe that this election is about the future, not the past, and that the country needs a President who will fight aggressively to end the status quo and change the Washington system and to give voice to all of those whose voices are ignored in the corridors of power.”

He gives a bit of a shot at Kerry being "the past", but still showed some respect to a guy who turned his back on his '04 running mate. Think Edwards could use this as a way to get coverage and make himself look good like Lieberman did in '04. Yet Lieberman got killed in New Hampshire and Edwards is portraying himself as a fighter and think you will see him use this to show himself as an outsider even more than he has thus far.

This is the first of what will be a number of endorsements due to roll out over the next two to three weeks with a wide range of positions and experience. The screws will be put to Congressmen, Senators, and Governors from the likes of Bill Clinton and others for all campaigns. Access and positions in a new administration will be held over the heads of these folks and the race will become more and more about fluff like endorsements instead of issues to help people and get the country off the Bush track and onto a positive one.

But this is also a double-edged sword. When Howard Dean got endorsement after endorsement in 2004, his campaign lost its focus and outsider/change message. Al Gore and Tom Harkin didn't propel Dean at all in Iowa, and neither did Bill Bradley in New Hampshire.

Pat Roberston's endorsment of Rudy Giuliani seemed to do nothing for him in Iowa where Evangelicals won the state for Huckabee and polls, for what they are worth, have Rudy battling Ron Paul for 5th in South Carolina, a state with a huge Evangelical population.

While we will see the big names probably start endorsing frontrunners on both sides I wonder how effective this will be. Keep in mind that voters don't like being told who to vote for, especially on the Democratic side. Iowans felt that Hillary was being pushed on them as the frontrunner and they responded by going towards Obama. Then New Hampshire voters were given the impression by the media that Barack would be coronated in their primary and a number of them decided to go away from Obama in the last 24-72 hours showing their independence.

So who else is out there that could give meaningful and newsworthy endorsement?

The biggest fish for the Dems is no doubt Al Gore who I truly think will stay out of the endorsement game. After him you have to look at Ted Kennedy, and don't roll your eyes at this one, in a primary this guy is as good a surrogate as there is. In 2004 when Kerry had noone else, Ted Kennedy barnstormed Iowa and New Hampshire and was very effective. Nancy Pelosi would be a coup for either Obama or Hillary to continue their reaching out to women. Though she'd be smart as a leader to stay out of the fray, while her Senate Counterpart Harry Reid would have less an impact due to a mych lower profile (though Reid's son is Hillary's Nevada Chairman perhaps indicating his preference). I don't think that any of the past candidates would be a huge coup. Richardson could help with the Latino vote, but overall don't think he is a national figure yet, and Biden and Dodd are good guys, but neither would move too many voters.

One last Dem thought and this one leads into Republicans as well. Colin Powell could be interesting. Would Powell get behind Obama? Do the Clintons have some old ties with him? Could he back McCain? Like Lieberman helped McCain with independents, Powell could do the same for anyone he gets behind. Hope that Colin Powell's silence won't be around for long. Though wouldn't blame him if he didn't get involved since being shit on by the Bush adminstration.

For the Republicans, its a little less clear. Jeb Bush would be a big get for the vital Florida Primary. Don't think the leaders in the Congress are big movers and shakers so Boehner and McConnell. Does Schwarzenegger get more involved or wait to see if Bloomberg gets in the race? And finally, with all the candidates trying to emulate and claim to be the new Ronald Reagan, a Nancy Reagan endorsement could be a big news story.

Many of the pundits have been talking about the need for candidates to start offering some true ideas and proposal for the country. Think that endorsements are a great way to avoid that, I hope that we get actual plans from Obama, Huckabee and others to show their vision other than their charisma.

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