Skip to comments.100 lawmakers give '08 endorsements
Posted on 02/13/2007 8:27:51 AM PST by Antoninus
Take note, presidential prognosticators: Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (R) may have earned a rousing reception at the California GOP convention last weekend, but Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) has more public supporters in Congress.
And while Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) plans to refrain from an endorsement until her party chooses a nominee, one Democratic candidate quietly has lined up not one but two backers in the House leadership - Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.).
The most wide-open presidential rivalry in modern times is sparking fierce competition for congressional backing, with nearly 100 lawmakers declaring their 2008 allegiances before the first debate begins. Though a win in the unofficial Capitol primary builds undeniable momentum for candidates, support from members of Congress may be more of a boon to those aiming for the White House from the back of the pack.
Months before the 2000 Iowa caucus, Vice President Al Gore found himself keeping one eye on the general election and the other on former Sen. Bill Bradley (N.J.) when the Democratic dark horse won the endorsements of then-Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) and the late former Sens. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) and Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.). In that year's Republican race, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush picked up early fiscal-conservative bona fides from former House budget chief John Kasich (R-Ohio) that came in handy later in the cycle.
Whether the congressional support will prove a boon for Dodd, who claims to have secured backing from House Democratic Caucus Vice-Chairman John Larson (Conn.) and assistant to the Speaker Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), remains to be seen. Similarly, Hunter's six member endorsements are as much a testament to his 14 terms and Armed Services Committee chairmanship as they are to his presidential viability.
"I'd say those [lawmakers] with safe seats, those with significant stature and networks, will be valuable" to 2008 hopefuls whose camps they join, the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, Sheila Krumholz, said. "Those who are working on their own reelection will be valuable - only less so."
The necessity of compiling extensive endorsements in Congress can depend on how candidates choose to define themselves to voters. While the imprimatur of local officials can jumpstart a campaign in early-primary states, Giuliani has jolted the GOP race with the force of national name-recognition won during New York's recovery from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Other candidates challenging the Beltway establishment, such as former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D), have less need to join the insider's race for congressional boosters.
The Internet's newly prime position in campaign strategy and outreach also adds a new dimension to the traditional pursuit of earned media before nominees are chosen. Instead of relying on lawmaker appearances to draw crowds, candidates can now blog on their websites and post online videos.
"The support Governor Romney has received is indicative of just how well our organizing at the grassroots level is going, and it's also a measure of just how well his message is resonating with folks across the entire spectrum of the Republican Party," a Romney spokesman, Kevin Madden, told The Hill.
Across the aisle, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) expressed a similar interest in cultivating grassroots support: "What we have to do is create a vehicle where people feel like they are part of the campaign, that they're not just being sold politics the way you sell soap," he told Iowans at a Sunday house party to mark his official entrance in the race.
Obama currently trails Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) in the Democratic hunt for congressional backers, which so far has attracted less attention than the GOP frontrunners' courtship of Republican members. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) delivered a shot across Romney's bow yesterday, announcing the support of five well-connected Republican officials in the former governor's home state of Massachusetts.
Just as presidential hopefuls chase congressional supporters, Krumholz observed that lawmakers with ambitions outside the Capitol may seek out the candidate most likely to repay their gesture after getting elected.
"It's a tit-for-tat game they play," she said. "Yes, [White House rivals] are looking for [members'] endorsements, and then members of Congress will be looking to collect chits for themselves."
Missouri Republican Sen. John Ashcroft endorsed Bush in 2000 after abandoning his own briefly held presidential hopes, only to become attorney general in the following year's administration. After winning the Democratic nomination in 2004, Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) openly vetted friend and endorser Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) for a future secretary of state position.
Endorsement counts during the 2004 race, however, illustrate the limits of strong support inside the Capitol. Heading into the 2004 Iowa caucus, former Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) boasted greater lawmaker support than both Kerry and then-frontrunner Gov. Howard Dean (Vt.), reflecting his status as the party's longtime House leader. Both Pelosi and current House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) endorsed Gephardt, in contrast to their neutrality during this cycle - but Gephardt ultimately dropped out after a fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucus.
An X-factor in the congressional endorsement battle is the plethora of party caucuses. Congressional Black Caucus members are already grappling with the difficult choice between Obama and Clinton, whose husband was affectionately dubbed "the first black president" for his appeal in the African-American community, but two other influential caucuses remain up for grabs.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus, its clout growing along with members' criticism of White House Iraq policy, has not yet endorsed a candidate and has no plans to do so at this time. The Republican Main Street Partnership, headed by former representative and early primary kingmaker Charles Bass (R-N.H.), is similarly undecided about whether to endorse a candidate before the nominations are secured.
Main Street spokesman Chris Barron observed that two of the three leading GOP contenders, McCain and Romney, have served or currently serve as members of the partnership, and that Giuliani's centrist credentials place him in line with the group's ideals.
This is the same House that dithered and lost Rome?
But ... but ... but ... the Rudy boosters told me no one would support Hunter because he has no chance of winning! What gives?
Funny, I don't recall you posting the same sentiments on the thread yesterday where Rudy got the backing of two Congresscritters. Rather selective indignation if you ask me.
Actually that was the 'Senate' and they 'lost Rome' in 410 AD to Alaric, King of the Visigoths.
(Actually Rome was 'lost' a few times. But '410' is the most famous)
It won't matter. Hunter will appeal to a large swath of the GOP with or without Tancredo's endorsement. That said, when tancredo drops out, he will likely support Hunter.
A little less Google searching and a stress pill would do you wonders.
I like Tancredo but Hunter has a much better chance.
It's beginning to look that way. I wish guys like Brownback and Tancredo would just ditch the presidential talk and back Hunter.
You're right. We only need one conservative candidate. The other guys could gain stature with the conservatives by putting principle over ambition at this point. While I'd vote for Newt, his baggage would probably keep him from winning in the general election. Newt should make his decision now and support someone else if he's not running.
Why should I? At least those Congresslosers have sense enough to recognize their own failure and are reaching out for some real leadership
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