Sunday, February 17, 2008

Endorsement Wars: Let the Games Begin

Polls come and polls go, but endorsements are forever – well one once thought. Witness one and possibly two recent defections from the Clinton camp: the loss of the endorsement of Congressmen David Scott (GA-13) and the possible loss of that of John Lewis (GA-5). Both African-American congressmen once declared their support for Hillary Clinton, and now one and possibly both have bent to the will of the constituents in their respective districts, in which both went heavily for Obama in the Georgia primary. Lewis is viewed as the biggest fish to lose for the Clinton campaign as he stands as a prime mover in the party, with a history that stems from the 1960’s civil rights movement. News of his defection, he now says, are premature. My guess is that the cat was let out of the bag before a deal was signed and sealed – this defection is a no-brainer.

So one starts to wonder at this point whether this is a fluke, a minor calving of icebergs off of, if you will, the Clinton glacier, or whether we are witnessing the incipient effects of a political “global warming” where there is most certainly more to come and a wholesale glacial retreat is in the offing.

The Baltimore Sun puts this whole thing in perspective:

“But it is a visible fracture of support for Clinton among a segment of superdelegates that is especially sensitive to arguments from the Obama campaign that party officials should follow the will of their constituents when they cast their votes as superdelegates.”
Will this have an effect on the local congressional endorsements in Texas? Not appreciably, one would think. Take a look. In Texas Hillary Clinton enjoys the endorsements of Congressmen Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Gene Green (TX-29), Ruben Hinojosa (TX-15), Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX-18), Solomon Ortiz (TX-27), and Silvestre Reyes (TX-16). Barack Obama, on the other hand, has received the endorsements of Charlie Gonzales, (TX-20) and Al Green (TX-9).

Based on the Georgia model, and on the supposition that Hispanic districts will go heavily for Clinton, one would wonder whether the district represented by Sheila Jackson-Lee, a district dominated by an African-American constituency, will go heavily for Barack Obama, as has been witnessed in other states where primaries have already been held. That being the case, one wonders whether Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee will feel the same pull as her Georgia colleagues, and switch her allegiance to Obama. Similarly, will Charlie Gonzales, coming from an Hispanic-dominant district surrounding San Antonio see a need to change his allegiance if his district goes heavily for Clinton?

Indeed, as this plays out, will the 99 remaining uncommitted superdelegates that comprise the Democratic sitting members of the House of Representatives simply wait and see how their districts vote before making any decisions on where to park their supervotes? Will there be more defections as time goes on?

This defection trend, if you can call it a trend, would be in close alignment, by the way, to what seems to be a growing movement among the Democratic voters, as voiced recently by the Chairwoman of the 2008 Democratic Convention, Nancy Pelosi:

“It's not just following the returns; it's also having a respect for what has been said by the people. It would be a problem for the party if the verdict would be something different than the public has decided.”
A similar notion is promoted by and Democracy for America. In the end though, and all rhetoric aside, what is likely to happen in the very near term, long before there is a floor battle on a hot August night in Denver, there will be a consensus among the superdelegates, and a migration toward the front runner - the so-called bandwagon effect.

What we are going to be seeing, besides the defections mentioned above, is a lot of fence sitting much like what we see in Congressman Jim Marshall (GA-8):

“I have been approached by both sides. I think I’m going to sit tight and just see how things progress in the different primaries that we’re about to have over the next couple of months.”
And that appears to be what is happening among the Democratic heavy hitters: Al Gore, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, and others. Party elders who have withheld their endorsements with the view that perhaps it will all work itself out before the end of the primaries on June 7th. If not, then perhaps exchanging an individual endorsement for a ticket to being a power broker at the convention is not a bad move to make.

No comments: