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Schweitzer, Rendell and the Endorsement Hierarchy

Cross-posted from The Fix:

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe will receive two prominent endorsements of his Virginia gubernatorial candidacy today from Democratic Governors Association Chairman Brian Schweitzer (Mont.) and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.

Schweitzer will travel the state with McAuliffe while Rendell, a past chairman of the Democratic National Committee, will cut a video in support of the former DNC Chair.

The decision by two out-of-state elected officials to wade into a contested three-way primary -- state Sen. Creigh Deeds and former state Del. Brian Moran are also running -- just days before the June 9 votes begs one basic question: Will either endorsement have any impact on the outcome on Tuesday?

For the answer, we turn to our handy-dandy endorsement hierarchy -- the Fix's attempt to categorize all endorsements and rank order those that matter and those that don't.

A quick primer on the endorsement hierarchy -- from most to least important:

  • 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. Zack Space supporting Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher's Senate bid in Ohio.
  • The Obligatory Endorsement: Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran endorsing McCain's presidential bid in 2008.
  • The Pariah Endorsement: Rod Blagojevich and Roland Burris

Obviously, neither Schweitzer nor Rendell fit into any of the categories listed above; Schweitzer, as chairman of the DGA, could be cast as a symbolic endorsement, but sources familiar with the decision insisted he was backing McAuliffe solely in his position as governor of Montana. Rendell, while a major player in national Democratic politics, has no ties to the state of Virginia.

Both men then fall into a new category -- for the sake of consistency we'll call it the out of state endorsement. The out of state endorsement ranks above the pariah endorsement -- after all, NO ONE wants the pariah endorsement -- and the obligatory endorsement but below all of the other forms of support in our hierarchy.

After all, does anyone doubt that McAuliffe, who badly needs a strong showing among African Americans to win on Tuesday, would rather have the support of prominent African American elected officials like Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) or former Richmond Mayor Doug Wilder -- both state-specific, non-statewide endorsers -- than Schweitzer and Rendell? (Wilder, for one, doesn't seem too keen on McAuliffe -- telling Politico's Jonathan Martin that if the former DNC Chair wins the nomination "there will be a formation of Virginians For [GOP gubernatorial nominee Bob] McDonnell."

While both Schweitzer and Rendell are likely to be known commodities to some within the party's base -- particularly in the hyper-educated, affluent northern Virginia suburbs -- it's hard to imagine that either man is particularly well known to broad swaths of Democratic primary voters.

That sentiment was summed up perfectly in the statement released by the Republican Governors Association when word of Schweitzer's endorsement broke yesterday: "Who is Brian Schweitzer?"

Put simply: Neither Schweitzer nor Rendell are game changers in this primary. Several polls released in the last 24 hours show Deeds ahead but with large number of voters still undecided. It's hard to imagine McAuliffe's twin endorsements today will sway significant numbers of those still sitting on the fence.

Read the rest of Chris Cillizza's morning political roundup at The Fix.

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  June 5, 2009; 9:22 AM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Terry McAuliffe  
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To answer your question, No, these will not change any minds.

On the contrary, it highlights what has essentially been the case all along- McAuliffe supporters need an airplane to get to Virginia (at the very least, a limo).

Meanwhile, Brian Moran has racked up hundreds of local endorsements from throughout the state. These are the folks closest to their communities who have the best idea of the lean of their constituents and neighbors.

Posted by: fauxrunner | June 5, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

The moat (or is it swamp) around the "I'm Virginia and to heck with anyone who hasn't lived here for the past 300 years" is fast draining. We are seeing very accomplished people endorsing Terry McAuliffe both inside and outside Virginia.

The three other candidates have been in the Virginia legislature for years. What did they do, except possibly block many fine initiatives? Yes, the legislature found the means to reduce State support for all levels of education. The State legislature found means to make Virginia's transportation mess worse. The legislature's record of accomplishment is abysmal unless you are a special interest like Dominion Power.

Well wake up Virginia. Terry McAuliffe is in town. He's going to shake up Richmond. He's not going to let the part time legislature say no to bringing good job with good wages and good benefits to Virginia. We're going to grow our way out of this recession with Terry McAuliffe as governor.

Posted by: Willis3 | June 5, 2009 6:50 PM | Report abuse

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