Why Richardson’s endorsement doesn’t fundamentally change the contest

March 21, 2008

Why Obama’s supporters should not get carried away

It is now pretty certain that Bill Richardson will endorse Barack Obama. The news of this has caused the betting markets to move even more in favour of the Senator from Illinois. However, although Richardson’ endorsement is a notable event, in that both Clinton and Obama sought out his support, it is important not to read too much into it. Firstly, Richardson’s influence is extremely limited given that he had to leave the contest after getting 2% of delegates in Iowa and 5% of the vote in New Hampshire. It must also be remembered that Richardson did a deal with Obama in Iowa over delegates so this wasn’t completely out the blue. Hillary has also received the endorsement of Robert Menendez, with Senator Ken Salazar still undecided, so the impact that this endorsement will have with voters will be limited.

At the same time, neither this nor Pelosi’s insistence that the super-delegates not go against Obama, will have any impact on the ground. Hillary has large leads in Pennsylvania and is closing on Obama in North Carolina, so she still could do well enough to start a move away from Obama. It should be remembered that Pelosi’s endorsement is not particularly influential. Her approval as majority leader is lower than George W Bush’s and she is unpopular within her own party. Contrary to what some may believe, Pelosi also has little or no formal power to force the delegates to vote for Obama. In any case if Obama gets the nomination by virtue of barring Floida and Michigan from re-votes, and by dint of a lot of arm-twisting from Howard Dean and Pelosi (two unpopular figures), it won’t be worth much. Therefore, I am still going to say that Obama and Clinton have a roughly equal chance of becoming the Democratic nominee in 2008.



  1. You are right that it does not make too much difference, but on the other hand, it does not help Mrs. Clinton. Up until now, Hispanics have voted for Mrs. Clinton by huge margins.

  2. I think that your observation of this endorsement is extremely one-sided. What would you be writing if Richardson had endorsed Sen. Clinton today? Or if she had the blessing of Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, and other Democrats you label “unpopular” [with Republicans].

    You’d probably write that Sen. Obama would have no chance of making inroads with the Latino community, that Richardson would almost-certainly be Hillary’s running-mate when she’s nominated, that the House Democratic leadership would follow Pelosi, and that Howard Dean, the chairman of the DNC, would be doing everything in his power to make sure the nomination goes Hil’s way.

    On the contrary, what we’re looking at is yet another wrench in Hillary’s plan. Gov. Richardson has the resume of the year and his endorsement will be worth much the next time Sen. Clinton takes Obama’s experience into question. Furthermore, he is an active, passionate, and even entertaining campaign. (Check out his Wild West ads during his re-election in ’06.) I won’t be hard to see his endorsement played in Spanish-language stations from here-on (without an accent), or watching him criticise Clinton’s record based on his experience INSIDE the Clinton Administration.

    The main message behind this is that Richardson did not endorse Sen. Clinton, and she was the “inevitable” nominee, and Richardson her inevitable running-mate. You don’t need to be Nostradamus to predict that Hillary’s nomination is less probable than possible.

    P.S. I’d like to see you blog about the recent relevations sweeping the web about Rev. Wright’s sermons being taken out of context: http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2008/03/21/the-full-story-behind-rev-jeremiah-wrights-911-sermon/

  3. Probably reduces the margins a bit, but Hispanics are not going to suddenly change course because a former governor says so. In any case, most of the states with significant HA populations have already voted.

  4. Even if mosts states with significant HA populations have already voted, this nevertheless offers a glimpse of Obama’s potential electability.

    White voters who may have otherwise been unsure about Sen. Obama’s electability may view this as a glimpse of where the Hispanic community’s vote will go in November. It will be noted that Gov. Richardson chose Sen. Obama, not Clinton, during primary season, so the argument cannot be made that Richardson’s support of Obama post-convention is solely due to party loyalty.

    This will no-doubt nudge Hispanics who voted for Clinton in the primaries to support Obama in the general, security the west from McCain and perhaps putting Florida back into play.

  5. Not only will Gov. Richardson’s endorsement play heavily with other undecided delegates, but it gives Sen. Obama an important ally in November battleground states like FL, NM, and NV.

    If Richardson endorsed Hillary (or had he endorsed Obama after he won the nomination), the Republicans would tell the Hispanic and Cuban communities that his support was partisan lip-service. I doubt such a claim would have any weight now.

    Gov. Richarson has the resume of the year and is an active campaigner. How better to counter Hillary’s claims of inexperience than with the one of the most experienced members of Clinton’s cabinet.

  6. I’m not going to deny that this will have some effect but Gov Richardson isn’t as influential as you think. Unless Richardson is Obama’s VP (which is possible, although unlikely) his endorsement will have limited effect in the general election. If he was crossing party lines then he’d have some effect, but a Democrat endorsing another Democrat won’t have a massive effect.

    I’ve read a few of Wright’s sermons and I’d disagree that they are being taken wildly out of context. The most you could say is that FOX news have highlighted the most inflammatory comments, but he has consistantly made inflammatory comments. His Howard University seminar was definitely not taken out of context (although Obama was obviously not present). Given that his church is selling these tapes to the public, it’s fair to assume that he’s probably made far worse statements.

  7. I think it’s unfair to assume anything made by Rev. Wright we don’t know about after basing his 40-year-long career on of a series of five-second soundbites. Sen. Allen’s “macaca” flap snowballed into a scandal that cost him his Senate seat because many people came forward about similar statements he had made in the past. What we were left with was a history of careless, racist flaps on Allen’s part. Rev. Wright, on the other hand, has yet to be ostracised by the people around him. I think that this begs the question: “Why?” Is it because those around him actually agree with his sermons, or because they’re being misrepresented by the media?

    All that matters in the case regarding Rev. Wright is hard evidence, and his sermons, though controversial, should definitely be viewed in their entirety before any judgement can be passed: http://www.youtube.com/user/TRINITYCHGO. I agree that some of his statements could fall under the category of outlandish, but many of them draw root from real injustices African Americans suffered in the US. Ex: the idea of AIDS being created by the US government, though a conspiracy theory, actually draws root from a similar episode called “The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.” Between 1932 and 1972 hundreds of African-American males in Alabama were deliberately infected with syphilis by the US government. They were not told that it could be spread to their families or lovers, leading to the direct suffering of an untold-number of innocent, law-abiding Americans.

    What kind of affect does this have on a the sermons of a Civil Rights-era reverend? I think Mike Huckabee, a Republican and an ordained minister, summed it up best: http://youtube.com/watch?v=ZNwMPNxwHmQ.

    “As easy as it is for those of us who are white to look back and say, “That’s a terrible statement,” I grew up in a very segregated South, and I think that you have to cut some slack. And I’m going to be probably the only conservative in America who’s going to say something like this, but I’m just telling you: We’ve got to cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told, “You have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie. You have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant. And you can’t sit out there with everyone else. There’s a separate waiting room in the doctor’s office. Here’s where you sit on the bus.” And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment. And you have to just say, I probably would too. I probably would too. In fact, I may have had a more, more of a chip on my shoulder had it been me.”
    -Mike Huckabee on March 19, 2008

  8. Mr. Giacomo:

    Comparing the so-called “macca” incident to Rev. Wright’s extreme anti-Americanism is pure non-sense. Stop defending what cannot be defended.

  9. Ohio Joe,

    Check out those links I posted before you dismiss his comments as anti-Americanism.

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