Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Gavin Newsom, Bill Clinton and the Endorsement Hierarchy

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom will benefit mightily from the endorsement of former President Bill Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton's decision to wade in on behalf of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in the California Democratic primary is big news in the Golden State this morning.

But, how does it fit into the Fix's endorsement hierarchy?

First, a quick primer -- ranked in order from most to least impactful:

* The Symbolic Endorsement: Ted Kennedy backing Barack Obama during the 2008 primaries.
* The State-Specific Statewide Endorsement: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist throwing his support to John McCain just before the Sunshine State presidential primary.
* The Celebrity Endorsement: Chuck Norris for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee
* The Newspaper Endorsement: Des Moines Register for John Edwards in 2004.
* The State-Specific Non-Statewide Endorsement: Rep. Connie Mack IV endorsing Gov. Charlie Crist's Senate candidacy in Florida.
* The Obligatory Endorsement: Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran endorsing McCain's presidential bid in 2008.
* The Pariah Endorsement: Rod Blagojevich and Roland Burris.

Clinton's endorsement of Newsom falls somewhere between the first two categories and is, therefore, potentially powerful.

Clinton can help Newsom in ways seen and unseen to make up ground of state Attorney General Jerry Brown.

The most obvious benefit for Newsom is that Clinton is a very popular figure among Democrats -- particularly Latinos -- in the state, and the image of Newsom and the former president together is a powerful and appealing one to many California Democratic primary voters. Latinos are widely regarded as the swing group in the primary fight -- especially since Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa decided against a much rumored gubernatorial bid earlier this year.

Less obvious, but no less important, are the deep ties that Clinton carries in the California donor community. Newsom finds himself trailing Brown badly in the chase for cash -- a critical contest in a state so large and with so many media markets. Clinton is, without doubt, one of the most prolific political fundraisers in history and if he leans on his people in the state, Newsom can expect the millions to pour in over the coming months.

The simple fact is that Newsom's campaign needed a shot of momentum as the race seemed to be settling with Brown as the clear frontrunner to Newsom's underdog. Clinton's endorsement doesn't fundamentally alter that dynamic but it does strengthen Newsom where he has been weak.

The critical element in all of this, however, is how actively Clinton ultimately works for Newsom. ABC's Teddy Davis, who broke the endorsement story, said the former President will be in California on Oct. 5 for Newsom -- doing a rally in east Los Angeles as well as a high-dollar donor event.

The more Clinton does -- from a public appearances and a private fundraising standpoint -- the better it is for Newsom.

By Chris Cillizza  |  September 15, 2009; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  Governors  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: MA-Senate: Lynch Drops Candidacy
Next: The Most Important Number in Politics Today


Very sorry BC did that, Jerry Brown's the most able fellow around. Remember that he earned the "Gov. Moonbeam" moniker years ago when he was talking about issues we're only today beginning to understand as vital.

Big Brown fan here.

Posted by: lesliekorshak | September 17, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

he had bad luck in VA endorsement
check out my Bill Clinton blog

Posted by: duganal | September 16, 2009 8:27 PM | Report abuse

i wish Clinton would come here to OH and endorse our governor
check out my Bill Clinton blog

Posted by: duganal | September 16, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

I'm I missing something or is the whole discussion devoid of policy differences. It sounds like junior high school; I'm your friend, not his friend. WHY does WJC think that Newsome is a better candidate than Jerry Brown?

Posted by: cyberfool | September 16, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

When I think about the type of experienced, disciplined politican California is going to need to avoid a complete meltdown next year, I automatically think of....Gavin Newsom!!

Of course not. He is Obama lite, so in love with his own persona and all his far left yes people. The same crowd that brought you the modern disaster movie, "California."

Put your money on Jerry Brown, and give Hispanics a little credit for thinking the problem through, instead of assuming they will vote for this bozo because they see a picture of him with Ol' Slick Willie.

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | September 16, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Newsom is the ultimate lightweight. His campaign is foundering because there is no there there. I don't see how Clinton changes that.

Posted by: barnardj1 | September 16, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

I think it is more of a celebrity endorsement. Bill Clinton is more celebrity than anything else.

Also, this boosts Tricky Ricky Lazio. Without his dive, Hillary would have no career.

Posted by: citizenchick | September 16, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

The Clinton endorsement will greatly help Newsom's fundraising. but let's not forget that Jerry Brown has outraised Newsom 8-1, and will now lean more heavily on his donors and he's got a great statewide donor pool.In the end his totals should still exceed Newsom's. As for the Latino vote - i think it would be very hard to diminish his support with that group dating back to Cesar Chavez (don't think for a minute that he won't have Cesar Jr. by his side). It's not as if Bill is running against Jerry,he's acting as a surrogate. And by the way Jerry carried the Latino vote against Bill himself in 1992(check out the Latino vote totals in 1992 Ca. Primary for reference). Brown doesn't lose too many statewide contests in California (he only lost to Bill by 7%) and he was out of politics at that time for years!

Posted by: RANDOLPHDUREN | September 16, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Clearly, the only way California has a fighting chance to survive is by electing someone who thinks out of the box---Brown. Arnold might have been that person, but he ultimately was slain by the party opposite, his own party, and by California's right-wing extremist tax situation--the myth that if you reduce revenues and shut your eyes, you'll get something for nothing. The legacy of Reagan (and historically, Jefferson) which holds that government is innately bad.

Posted by: maris9 | September 16, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Unless both Clintons actively campaign for Newsom, this is just a speed bump for Jerry Brown.

Newsom will gain contributions from the endorsement, but I don't think it'll shrink his negatives in voters' minds. And the longer the time since Clinton was president, the lesser the influence his endorsement means.

Posted by: bulldog6 | September 16, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Due to two very dear friends in common, I took a couple weeks from my law practice to work with Jerry Brown's presidential campaign during the 1992 New York primary. I came to respect Governor Brown's intellect, breadth of curiousity and commitment to the public good and also well remember the complete disdain with which he was treated by the Clintons and their influential New York supporters (can you say Harold Ickes?).

No mystery for me in this endorsement.

Posted by: jeffersonian1 | September 15, 2009 8:10 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for an informative thread - and thanx, Axis, for the probable back story. I forgot that Brown had run hard early against WJC in '92.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | September 15, 2009 7:57 PM | Report abuse

OK, read wikipedia and I see that Clinton wants to stick it to Brown. Well, that's my least favorite political motivation of all.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 15, 2009 7:54 PM | Report abuse

I'm with MarkinAustin-- what is in this endorsement for Clinton? The only thing I can think of is that Brown is older and useless to Clinton, whereas Newsom has a future and the next step could be owed to Clinton.

I'm a big fan of Brown -- he's willing to take on what is going to be a very hard job merely because he knows he can do it. That's a real public servent.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 15, 2009 7:46 PM | Report abuse

I'm inclined to side with reason5 on this one. Clinton's endorsement matters, not just for fundraising but also for So Cal. This Clinton's are still popular down there and this will help. Gavin is in a much better position now than he was 48 hours ago.

I'm not as familiar with the R side of the equation since I left CA before these people became players.

Posted by: trep1 | September 15, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

I once again agree with mark_in_austin - the endorsement will help Newsom's fundraising. And it is a vote of confidence for Newsom to have a former President endorse him, which Newsom needs. (There was one poll that showed Newsom not only losing statewide, but even trailing in many neighborhoods of San Francisco itself.)

Ultimately, not sure it is a game-changer though, because Clinton's political "street cred" in CA was hurt by his comments during the 2008 presidential primary season. There are Dems in CA who voted for Hillary in the primary only to have buyers remorse once the primary played out a little more in other states.

The back story will have you hitting your head like the star of a V-8 commercial -- this really wasn't that surprising an endorsement when you consider:
1. Newsom supported Hillary Clinton in the CA presidential primary.
2. Newsom has been active in the Democratic Leadership Council/New Democrat Coalition; the same organization that led Bill Clinton to political prominence.
3. Lest we all forget -- Jerry Brown ran against Bill Clinton for the 1992 Democratic nomination. Brown edged Clinton out in several states, and pushed the Whitewater story. They've never liked each other.

For impact, this probably will fall between the second and third level of celebrity endorsement. This is definitely not game-changer Kennedy endorsing Obama, and the big difference with Crist endorsing McCain is that Crist was the sitting governor who looked like he was leaning towards another candidate. Clinton is a popular former President in CA, no doubt, but he's more of a political celebrity than a sitting official. The "well-duh" nature of the endorsement also lessens the political punch. (But rest assured Mr. President, you still carry more political punch than Chuck Norris....)

Posted by: Axisofstupidity1 | September 15, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Its true Newsom will get the support of the gays, the Pelosi crowd (51/50's) and Hollywood. That of course means lots of campaign cash for Newsom. But in the general election, 75% of the state will vote against him. He has as much chance of winning a general election as Sarah Palin has. Slim to none.

Posted by: brattykathyi1 | September 15, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Its no real surprise that the impeached and disbarred criminal Clinton would endorse a fellow criminal. Newsom has already shown a total disregard for California State Law and the California Constitution. Just the kind of scum one would expect a Clinton to befriend.

Posted by: brattykathyi1 | September 15, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

reason5, please eml me at

I do not see WJC as nearly as influential with CA chicanos as Brown, who Cesar Chavez nominated for POTUS.

The money is a big deal, however.

Why did Clinton endorse GN? Back story anyone?

Posted by: mark_in_austin | September 15, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

This is a fairly big endorsement for Newsom. Bill Clinton is a top notch fundraiser with mass connections. Clinton will also be able to help Newsom fully nationalize this Democratic primary. The old guard Brown vs. the the Newsom change. I truly think Newsom could win this primary. If Villaraigosa had ran, I think it was Brown's primary to lose. Now that Villaraigosa has choosen not to run, Brown is still the front runner but Newsom now has a great shot at victory. Clinton helping Newsom nationalizing this primary should flood money into Newsom's account via netroots support. Newsom should also get national volunteers via netroot support. Big endorsement for Newsom!

On the Republican side, I'm not fully sold on Meg Whitman. I think Steve Poizner still has a great shot to win this race. He's a proven vote getter and the current California Insurance Commissioner. Not only this, but Poizner has been coalasing support from the conservative bloc of the Republican party, getting conservative endorsements and has lots of personal money to spend to win, just like Whitman. Campbell must rely on the Schwarzanegger lot of support and his name recognition to have a shot in this primary, and with the money of his opponents and Arnold's lack of popularity he has not much of a shot to win. I'm not totally sold on Whitman and still see a strong path for Poizner to the R nomination.

Posted by: reason5 | September 15, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

If the possible outcome wasn't so scary, this would be hilarious. I'd move.

Posted by: VonS1 | September 15, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

This one is sort of a Venn diagram. Intersection of #1 (symbolic) and #3 (celebrity). It's a bit of a stretch to call it state specific. Any successful national Democrat is going to raise money in California, because that's where the money is.

I would argue with one assumption in the hierarchy, namely that it's so directly rank order. #1 > #2 > #3 etc. More like a range of values so that on a scale of 1 to 10, the symbolic endorsement has a value of 7 - 10, the state specific 6 - 9, etc.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | September 15, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company