How important are endorsements by office holders when it comes to nominating a presidential candidate? I think the conventional wisdom is that this year, at least on the Republican side, they won’t count for much. On the other hand, Aaron Bycoffe of FiveThirtyEight cites research showing that in presidential nomination contests between 1980 and 2004, early endorsements by members of the party elites were the most important cause of candidate success in the state primaries and caucuses.
Accordingly, FiveThirtyEight is keeping track of endorsements this cycle. Even if dndorsements end up not helping successfully to predict the nominees, the scorecard is fascinating, at least to me.
FiveThirtyEight’s scorecard awards 10 points for endorsements by governors, 5 points for endorsements by U.S. senators, and 1 point for endorsements by U.S. representatives. The winner, as of now, on the Republican side is Jeb Bush with 51 points. He is followed by Marco Rubio (43), Chris Christie (26), Mike Huckabee (26), John Kasich (20), Ted Cruz (17), and Rand Paul (15).
Donald Trump, to whom Cruz says the political establishment is flocking, has zero endorsements from sitting governors, senators, and U.S. representatives.
No wonder people are discounting endorsements on the Republican side this year.
Bush’s endorsements come almost exclusively from figures whom most would consider establishment types. No surprise there.
Rubio’s endorsers are an impressive group. They include stars from the House like Trey Gowdy, Jason Chaffetz, Darrell Issa, Kristi Noem, Mike Pompeo, and Mia Love (a Power Line pick). Four Senators have also endorsed Rubio. They are James Inhofe, James Risch, Cory Gardner, and Steve Daines.
Bush is endorsed by five Senators. However, they include Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, and Thad Cochran. Consider me unimpressed.
Ted Cruz, said to be “hated” by his GOP Senate colleagues, hasn’t picked up any Senate endorsements. However, 17 House members are backing him. They include Steve Hayward’s friend Tom McClintock and my friend Alex Mooney (a Power Line pick). Other conservative stalwarts who have endorsed Cruz include Louis Gohmert, Steve King, and Paul Gosar (author of the Gosar amendment).
Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie benefit from home cooking. Five of Huckabee’s nine endorsements come from the Arkansas delegation to Congress. Senator Boozman is backing Huckabee. Senator Cotton hasn’t endorsed anyone yet.
Christie has picked up endorsements from four New Jersey congressmen. He is also endorsed by my governor, Larry Hogan, whom Christie help achieve an historic victory in a very Blue state.
Maine’s governor, Paul Le Page, has endorsed Christie too. If the New Jersey man comes out of New Hampshire in decent shape, he may win the endorsement of other governors he has helped.
As I said, Trump hasn’t been endorsed by any governor or member of Congress. However, if he wins in Iowa and New Hampshire (the polls now have him ahead in both states), this might very well change. We shouldn’t underestimate the power of opportunism.
On the Democratic side, to no one’s surprise, Hillary Clinton is crushing it. She leads Bernie Sanders in the endorsement primary 459-2.
Sanders’ endorsements are from Keith Ellison of Minnesota (by way of Louis Farrakhan) and Raúl Grijalva of Arizona. Martin O’Malley has been endorsed by Eric Swalwell of California.
For Hillary, though, it’s James Comey’s “endorsement” that counts the most.