Monday, September 12, 2011

Pawlenty Endorses Romney

The big political news of the morning, going into the Tea Party debate tonight, is that the Minnesota Meh, Tim Pawlenty, has endorsed Mitt Romney.

Endorsements are tricky things to understand in presidential nomination politics, because they can mean different things. Let's see...

Collectively, high-profile endorsements are a way for party actors to signal to each other their preferences, which helps them to coordinate their collective choice -- or, in the case of factional battles over the nomination, to coordinate a faction. In that sense, endorsements are quite important.

But individual endorsements may or may not play into that, because endorsers may be acting as part of the party or on behalf of individual, perhaps idiosyncratic reasons. Now, some self-interest may line up with party coordination. For example, if Pawlenty's goal is to get a cabinet post or the VP nod, then he has a strong incentive to figure out who is likely to win the nomination -- and he thus sends an informed signal to others about how the contest is going. On the other hand, it's not unusual for presidential candidates to wind up holding grudges against each other and acting on that after they leave the race.

Note that in all of this endorsements can be both a cause of future consolidation behind a candidate and an effect of previous candidate success.

I should mention too that endorsements can bring resources (money, volunteer time) with them, although it's best to be careful about assuming that a failed presidential candidate controls, or even has a strong influence on, his former supporters. Might be true, might not. Press reports sometimes are a bit too quick to make those connections; indeed, exaggerated reports of resources that supposedly came with endorsements may account for the idea that endorsements don't matter, which I also hear frequently. So I'd be cautious about that sort of effect -- although surely it can exist, to some extent.

So all in all endorsements are certainly worth paying a lot of attention to, but they tell us a lot in the aggregate that isn't necessarily true of individual cases.


  1. ...zzzzzzzzzzzz.... snork... wha?!... is tha'? ... ummmmmmm...... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...



    Poor T-Paw. He was against ObomneyCare before he was for it, I guess. ;-)

    This guy just never had the chops for this game. No strategic sense and timing, as proven again by this endorsement. And it puts Romney's strategic sense into question, as well. Romney needs to be seen as putting Perry down all on his lonesome, mano a mano, not via a group of metrosexual RINOs banding together, and trading cabinet positions for endorsements.

    And I like T-Paw. He did a credible job in Minnesota, and would likely do so as president. But to paraphrase Rummy, we go to presidential war with the electoral process we have, not the one we'd wish to have, and T-Paw just doesn't seem to be capable of succeeding in that process, or even understanding it.

  2. Do you think he may be endorsing Romney because Romney is the candidate with the closest/most moderate views? Perry and Bachmann and the rest tend to be more radical, tea party views which Pawlenty doesn't.

    Also he may also feel that he has the biggest chance of being the vp, if Romney wins as his views match Romney's more than the others.

  3. "Also he may also feel that he has the biggest chance of being the vp, if Romney wins as his views match Romney's more than the others."

    Yes, but don't candidates tend to pick running mates to appeal to other demographics than they do themselves? I like Pawlenty, but he's too much like "Romney Lite". To me, a more natural pick for Romney would be Huckabee, who would draw in some of the religious right without going full-out stupid.

  4. Does Pawlenty's campaign debt ($500,000, according to the NYT), deserve mention/credit?

  5. "Yes, but don't candidates tend to pick running mates to appeal to other demographics than they do themselves?"

    That always used to be the calculation, buy were Clinton and Gore so different, or Bush and Cheney, the Texas oil team?

  6. Good catch, Kev.

    Here I am berating T-Paw's political savvy, and forgetting the savviest move any politician can make... getting a past opponent to pay off campaign debts, in trade for endorsement. It's the American way. ;-)


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