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The Endorsement Racket

By Greg L | 5 December 2011 | Virginia Politics | 4 Comments

As the the next waves of election races heat up there’s predictably been a flurry of endorsement announcements for various candidates.  Some of these are meaningful, many of them are not, and it might not be obvious to many how to tell the difference.  Since BVBL readers tend to have an interest in being a little more informed than the rest of the body politic, here’s how to sort them out.

It makes sense to categorize these endorsements into a few groups:

1.  The “I’ll need a favor” group characterizes nearly all the George Allen endorsements by elected officials, and those hoping to become elected officials.  They don’t care a whit about George Allen or what he stands for, all they know he is very well positioned to win and they want to endorse a winner.  Getting on board early with what they think is a sure winner is a good way to cultivate useful political capital for the future.  If you want to find elected officials and candidates who are seriously principled, look at those who haven’t jumped on this bandwagon.  It’s not that I particularly dislike George Allen here, but the eager fawning subservience of so many in such an obvious way is disappointing.

2.  The “Locked into a legacy” group characterizes those elected officials who have cemented their political futures to a prominent political figure and need them to win in order to stay relevant.  This is Bill Bolling coming out strong for Mitt Romney after Romney had campaigned for Bolling last cycle, even though they would seem to have very little in common otherwise in terms of their philosophy and record.  Had Bolling decided it was more responsible to hold off and evaluate the field to find the best candidate, that would be significant.  Seeing Bolling waste his political capital on Romney is not, other than insofar as it impacts Bolling’s own race for Governor in 2013.

3. The “He’s my guy” group are those elected officials who will never abandon a political ally or walk back a deal even when conditions should suggest otherwise.  I like loyalty in a political figure, but when that trumps philosophy, record, and/or common sense it gets annoying.  I’m going to pick on Bolling’s endorsement by my good friend Bob Marshall here as in a world that made any amount of sense Marshall would be fully behind his frequent cohort Ken Cuccinelli.  Don’t beat up Marshall too much on this one, just understand how meaningless it is that he felt there was no latitude for him to follow his heart and convictions and ended up doing this.  CORRECTION: Bob Marshall HAS NOT endorsed Bill Bolling - my source on this was way off base here.

4. The “It’s my duty” group comes out in force after nominations are settled.  When a prominent elected official of one party endorses a down-ticket candidate of the same party, there isn’t any meaning there unless the big guy is raising big money or doing a lot of groundwork for the little guy.  This stuff amounts to campaign spam, or electoral pollution if you prefer.

5.  The “Chichester” group is when you get a party turncoat like John Chichester or Russ Potts to endorse a candidate running against a Republican because that Republican doesn’t like tax hikes.  These aren’t just meaningless, they’re simply laughable and a sign of utter desperation by whoever managed to buttonhole them.  None of these have come out yet, but it’s a virtual certainty that whichever Dem running for Governor gets their nomination is going to trot this tired old horse out for a beating again.

Does this mean that all endorsements are meaningless?  Certainly not, but if you don’t bother looking for the reasons why an endorsement may be given you’re likely to be influenced in your decisions by public actions that hold a lot less meaning than might be evident.  The best course is to just make up your own mind regardless of a candidate’s endorsement list, because a huge swath of that list is going to be utterly useless for you.

My inbox is flooded these days with press releases touting this endorsement racket to the point it’s starting to get annoying.  Anyone who wants my support should be able to figure out by now I’m not a sheep just looking for some member of whatever herd I am supposed to belong to to follow.



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4 Comments

  1. pprados said on 5 Dec 2011 at 10:59 pm:
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    I feel like I live in bizarro world:
    Marshall endorses Bolling over Cooch?
    G/L says don’t be too mean to Marshall for abandoning principal and his long term ally.
    Tom Davis holds a fundraiser for Cooch.
    What is going on!!!?!?!

    BTW, I have word that my KTC for Gov bumper stickers have shipped!

  2. Greg L said on 6 Dec 2011 at 12:02 am:
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    I’ve seen some difficult to accept endorsements based on personal relationships in the past, and while they’re not always easy to accept they are ultimately easy to understand. I’ll take the personal loyalty answer over political calculation any day, but it still isn’t easy hearing that Bob Marshall is a Bolling guy after all that happened between Marshall and Cuccinelli on the effort to defeat ObamaCare.

  3. Greg L said on 6 Dec 2011 at 10:16 pm:
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    Got word this evening that the info I received about Marshall endorsing Bolling is false. Trying to find the source of that info and will have a post up when I track that down.

  4. The Bulletproof Monk said on 6 Dec 2011 at 10:59 pm:
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    What I find amusing is folks who are all up somebody’s but till they hear that that person has endorsed someone they don’t like. They’ll turn on them in an instant.
    Seen it happen a number of times this past year in Loudoun.

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