Friday, November 16, 2007

What Are These Endorsements Based On Anyway?

Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic blogged one of the funniest exchanges I have seen this primary season. The exchange was during an interview between radio host and Romney defender Hugh Hewitt and the executive director of National Right to Life, David O’Steen about NRTL’s endorsement of Fred Thompson. Although Hewitt supports Romney, he brought to light the absence of logic behind some of these strange endorsements we’re seeing.

HH: Well, that’s the same…David, David, this audience is very sophisticated. They don’t like double talk. He’s not where Huckabee is, he’s not where Romney is endorsing the amendment. What I’m trying to get to is why do you guys not care about that?

DO’S: Well, wait a minute, I didn’t want to talk about other candidates specifically.

HH: Well, come on.

DO’S: Look at the history of other candidates. I said he’s had a consistent pro-life position.

HH: Are you saying Huckabee’s not consistently pro-life?

DO’S: What did you say?

HH: Are you saying Huckabee’s not consistently pro-life?

DO’S: No, I’m not saying…I wasn’t talking about Huckabee. You were mentioning other candidates. I mean, you…

HH: But Huckabee is…

DO’S: Huckabee has been pro-life, yes. He’s pro-life.

HH: And he’s for the amendment. So why would you guys not go with him?

DO’S: Well, I’ll tell you, we’re also looking at what we view as electability.

HH: You don’t think Mike Huckabee is electable?

DO’S: Well, in the polls we’ve been watching, in the national polls, Fred Thompson has in the majority of them run second, Mike Huckabee hasn’t.

HH: David, have you been watching…David O’Steen is my guest from the National Right To Life Committee. Have you been watching the recent polls? Fred Thompson’s falling like a rock.

DO’S: Well, he’s running strong in South Carolina. The last national Real Clear Politics average I saw showed him running second to Rudy Giuliani.

HH: He’s got 6% in Iowa, and less than that, I think, in New Hampshire in the CBS poll released yesterday.

DO’S: But he’s running strong in Nevada and South Carolina. As I said, you know, everyone can look at polls, and the last Real Clear Politics average I saw, he was running second to Rudy Giuliani.

This interview brings up two important questions. First, who is more electable, Huckabee or Thompson? Second, what are these endorsements based on anyway?

Looking at the national RCP average can be very misleading; Thompson is doing quite well in the national polls compared to Huckabee, but Huckabee is better positioned to possibly win some early primary states. The RCP averages for Iowa show that Huckabee is quickly turning things around there while Thompson’s numbers have been stagnant since April when he wasn’t even an official candidate. Huckabee’s momentum could quite possibly give him an Iowa win and change his fortunes in the subsequent primaries.

Unfortunately for Thompson there is no similar prospect in sight. In New Hampshire, both Thompson and Huckabee are in the single digits after Thompson’s 11-12% showing in mid-October shriveled to 5% this month. Huckabee’s 7% may be small, but at least he’s moving up, and if the Iowa caucus takes place before the New Hampshire primary and he wins, he could take advantage of his low expectations by making a second or third place showing in New Hampshire and really shake the campaign up.

O’Steen argues that Thompson is doing well in South Carolina (16.8%) and Nevada (15%), but Thompson is hemorrhaging support in South Carolina (down from 23% in October) and in Nevada he can’t seem to gain any ground. In Florida his numbers are dropping like a roller coaster (from 22% in October to14% now), so count that state out.

Giuliani is playing a dangerous game banking on a February 5th victory in the delegate rich states, but at least he is leading in these states by wide margins. In California alone Giuliani has 32% while Thompson is sitting at 12%. Unless Thompson can pick up the pace in either the early states or put some heat on Giuliani in the latter, Thomson is in big trouble.

So why would NRTL endorse a candidate who clearly isn’t positioned to win when there are other pro-life candidates who are?

Paul Weyrich, the well known evangelical leader who recently endorsed Romney, suggested to the Washington Times that there was some financial dealing involved. The Thompson campaign of course responded with their own mud slinging saying that Romney tries to spread his money around wherever he can and that they would have endorsed him except for the fact he was pro-choice two years earlier. While this response explains why Romney wasn’t endorsed NRTL, it still isn’t clear why they would support Huckabee over Thompson.

Whatever their motivation is, it’s obviously not viability.


Blogger Daniel B. said...

Excellent thoughts. I agree; the endorsements passed around this year seem to be haphazard and loosely based on anything explicitly stated by the endorser. I sense that much of the endorsement game, for better or for worse, is based on behind the scenes politicking. While this may work well for lobbying and initiatives, I think it not only distorts the political process, but that voters are too smart to fall for it. At best, it just decreases the relevance the endorsement have in the eyes of voters and diminishes any clout the organization giving the endorsement has.

12:57 PM  

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