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Tuesday, February 10, 2004


What does an endorsement really mean these days?

I mean, come on, no one really thinks that Gov. Mark Warner's endorsement just before the primary (today) is going to make or break John Kerry in Virginia. Whatever strength he has to turn out votes is limited, given that his team would only start to help at this date. Face it, Warner is just climbing on the bandwagon, hoping it'll help him down the line.

And there are myriad examples of supposedly powerful endorsers who didn't make a difference, like Gov. John Engler whose mighty machine somehow failed to swing Michigan for his favored candidate (W. in 2000), or Sen. Tom Harkin the kingmaker in Iowa whose support meant little when his state voted to make Dean go away. Maybe some votes are swayed when ideological leaders like Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) or Jack Kemp make an endorsement, but just because Steve Forbes supports Rep. Patrick Toomey (R-PA) for Senate, doesn't mean that I'm going to.

I'm certainly not going to say anything about endorsements by Al Gore or Madonna, whose impact is so diaphanous as to be unverifiable, or even is potentially counterproductive.

Revoking your endorsement, however, is something that should be done in only the most important of cases. I agree with a principled resignation from a job or effort when you disagree with something on high ethical grounds or somesuch, but the decision by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees to withdraw its support from Howard Dean smacks of cowardice. Yes, the incredible locomotive that is the Dean campaign is hardly charging down the rails like it was when AFSCME endorsed, but what else has changed?

Did the AFSCME endorsement mean anything or was it just me-tooism? We all want to win, but at what price?