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McCain-Romney Endorsement Contest Continues

Less than a week after former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney announced that Sen. Jim Demint (R-S.C.) has endorsed him in the all-important state of South Carolina, Sen. John McCain will counter today by announcing that state House Speaker Bobby Harrell is backing his race for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination.

McCain and Harrell will be joined by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and state Attorney General Henry McMaster on a tour of the state today to tout the endorsement, making stops in Greenville (located in the Republican-rich Upstate), Charleston and Columbia.

In the 2000 campaign Harrell supported George W. Bush over McCain -- as did any number of South Carolina elected officials and activists who are supporting McCain this time around. The big endorsement still up for grabs in South Carolina is Gov. Mark Sanford (R). Sanford backed McCain in 2000 but has yet to pick sides in 2008.

The focus McCain has put on courting the political establishment in the Palmetto State shows how important he and his team believe the state will be in his path to the nomination. Seven years ago, South Carolina served as the tipping point for Bush; McCain came into the state with massive momentum following his win in New Hampshire, but he left it bruised, battered and all but out of money. McCain went on to win Michigan, but his campaign was effectively over.

As The Fix wrote yesterday, McCain and Romney are engaged in a full-scale battle for activists and elected officials in the early primary and caucus states. Does any of it matter? Marginally. Few people who don't practice politics full time are paying attention at this early stage, and most voters don't make their decisions based on which candidate has the most endorsements.

That said, if one candidate rolls up the vast majority of endorsements in a particular state (à la George W. Bush in 2000), it suggests a sense of inevitability that could well translates into real votes on primary day.

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 16, 2007; 8:28 AM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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