Some Endorsements Come With More Strings Than Others

Friday, 23 Dec 2011 11:31 AM

By Simon Conway

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I’ve always been fascinated by political endorsements. Have we become so dependent on other people or organizations that even our vote in an election has to be directed?

I refuse to believe that and yet every political season, candidates will jump through hoops to secure the endorsement of this person or that body.

Seriously — did even one person suddenly decide to vote for Mitt Romney for example, because Gov. Tim Pawlenty endorsed him after withdrawing from the presidential race?

Most of the Chris Christie supporters I know were actually upset when he backed Romney and certainly I don’t know anyone at all who followed his lead.

And then there are the organizational endorsements. Would it make a difference to you if the union you are a member of or the Chamber of Commerce you belong to or even your church turned around and said “you should back this candidate”?

I really hope not. I really hope we still have enough about us as people that we do our own research and come to our own conclusions and are not lead to the polling place on leashes.

Right now in Iowa we are witnessing one of the messiest endorsements I have ever seen. It’s coming from the Iowa group The Family Leader and it went to former Sen. Rick Santorum. Well actually, that’s not entirely true.

While The Family Leader as an organization has publicly stated that they were unanimous in their choice of Santorum, they decided the group would remain neutral. That very statement is hardly neutral.

In the meantime, the organization's CEO, Bob Vander Plaats, immediately left the meeting and personally endorsed Santorum.

All very strange, but nowhere near the end of it.

Oh and for the uninitiated, The Family Leader is the group that demanded fidelity pledges from candidates — perhaps the biggest insult to them personally during the entire election cycle.

It goes something like this. You are Michele Bachmann. Some 32 years ago you stood in a church in front of your family and friends; in front of your pastor and in front of God and you made your marriage vows. Mr. Vander Plaats essentially turned around and said to Michele Bachmann and the others — “not good enough. Now you have to do it in front of me”. And weirdly to me, some of them did.

So now we come back to the endorsement which happened on Tuesday of this week. On Saturday the three chosen candidates (we think it was three) all received phone calls. Bachmann told me yesterday she was asked to “merge” which she took to mean “drop out.”

Santorum was more specific. He said he was asked to drop out. Who does this Vander Plaats guy think he is? The Caucus process is what determines who stays in and who stays out, not an individual man. (Vander Plaats, by the way, refuses to come on my show. I wonder why.)

So none of them drop out and then on Tuesday we get the big endorsement. If I was Santorum I would actually regard it as poisonous at this point and would reject it.

Instead, he goes on CNN and says that Vander Plaats told him “he needed money to promote” an eventual endorsement, but didn’t directly ask for that money. WHAT? Really?

That conversation apparently took place in early Fall.

“What he talked about was he needed money to promote the endorsement and that would be important to do that. There was never a direct ask for me to go out and raise money for it,” Santorum said on CNN.

Meanwhile, the Des Moines Register reports that Vander Plaats has told various Republicans that he’d like to have the cash to do TV advertisements to promote his personal endorsement. According to the newspaper, he said that saturating Iowa with news of the endorsement was “part of our ethical responsibility.”

I know it’s late in the year, but truly that could be the quote of 2011. And we think the president is full of his own self-importance!

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