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The endorsement challenge

Justin Webb | 04:03 UK time, Thursday, 31 January 2008

H K Livingstone (and others) make reasonable points about this endorsement business but should rise to the challenge, then, of picking people who count.

Gore (suggested by Justin - no relation to me) is an obvious one and they must be working on it, but gritty blue collar folk must surely be the real prize. I see John Edwards has told reporters in New Orleans that he has not made any decision about his own endorsements but is hoping to talk to both the candidates.

Seems to me he does it now - or in the next few days - or loses his clout. Meanwhile, if Obama cannot get any gritty folk on board maybe a revolutionary candidate should think outside the box - how about Tony Blair?

Is McCain inevitable? He looked testy and tired at the CNN debate but he is picking up even bigger endorsements than Tony Blair...

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 11:52 PM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • John Kecsmar wrote:

Interesting point, using Blair. But, since Bill Clinton helped and supported him, would he do this, support Obama rather than Hillary? If he did endorse someone, i suspect he would feel "obliged" to return the favour to Hillary.

But, politics is a funny game...Blair presented himself as ostensibly a socialist under the Labour banner, yet his policies were an extension of conservatism!

  • 2.
  • At 11:55 PM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Richard wrote:

Who would Colin Powell endorse? I read somewhere that he was giving foreign policy advice to Barak Obama. I hope that is true. Bipartisan appeal is surely the mark of the great candidate. McCain is undoubtedly the best Republican and would be a creditable president but Obama has the potential to be a great,uniting,transformative president giving America (and perhaps the whole World) a step forward into new and less divided times. Surely its already obvious that if Hillary is the Democrat nominee she can't win over enough swing Republicans to win -and even if she did- it would be a kind of Clinton Dual Monarchy with the old Clinton scandals rearing their heads from time to time. Let's hope Super Tuesday is Obama Tuesday.

  • 3.
  • At 12:20 AM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Edward S wrote:

The Democratic campaign is beginning to disappoint.

They started out with a slate of outstanding candidates, holding good debates. They all could have had a place in a cabinet. It left me thinking that the Swiss cantonal system has its advantages: one votes for an executive council not for a president. The result is usueally a government composed of opposing parties, which can be difficult.

Now, some of the best Democratic candidates have left the race. And the debate between the remaining two is becoming more superficial by the day. Bill and Hillary are being plain nasty in their misrepresentation of Obama statements, but Obama is becoming more and more abstract, calling for change for change's sake.

"Quel gâchis!"

  • 4.
  • At 12:52 AM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Christian Oster wrote:

Having a foreign politician expressing his sympathies one way or the other would surely backfire on the endorsee. The American administration made comments regarding the Australian opposition being a dangerous choice, it was not a popular move with the locals. Put simply it would be seen as meddling.

  • 5.
  • At 01:01 AM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Justin wrote:

Being as Bill Clinton attended the Labour Party conference once to help boost Tony Blair, I'm not sure the Clintons would take too kindly to him laying his support behind Obama. I wonder how many Americans will be upset by this suggestion though. After all, the slightest utterance from a foreigner regarding American politics seems to generate a huge backlash of accusations of medalling - even when, as is clearly the case regarding your suggestion of Blair, it is meant in jest.

I wonder who could give Obama a much needed boost though? Apart from Al Gore, how about getting Michael Bloomberg on board somehow? That is, providing of course, he really isn't going to stand as an independent. But surely this endorsement would go some way to swinging New York from Hillary to Obama.

Or what about Tom Cruise? He could brainwash people into voting for Obama.

Or Michael Moore even? This would guarantee some of Edwards supporters turning to Obama, even without an Edwards endorsement.

  • 6.
  • At 03:55 AM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Jay Cole wrote:

I imagine Edwards is keeping his cards close to his chest in order to see what he is offered by each candidate. After all last time round he was running mate to John Kerry, and with the bad-blood between the two remaining democratic camps he must be fancying his chances of a repeat VP chance.

Though of course, the loser of Obhama and Clinton may swollow their pride in the realisation that a combined ticket would be near unstoppable.And after all I don't think there's been a black, or a female Vice-President before either.

  • 7.
  • At 03:58 AM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Jay Cole wrote:

I imagine Edwards is keeping his cards close to his chest in order to see what he is offered by each candidate. After all last time round he was running mate to John Kerry, and with the bad-blood between the two remaining democratic camps he must be fancying his chances of a repeat VP chance.

Though of course, the loser of Obhama and Clinton may swollow their pride in the realisation that a combined ticket would be near unstoppable.And after all I don't think there's been a black, or a female Vice-President before either.

Ron Paul is the only candidate who's campaign is not in debt.

This sugeestes he has a clue about finances as well as everything else.

Of course, the media (including the BBC) doesn't seem to want to mention him.

Why is that, do you suppose?

  • 9.
  • At 10:14 AM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • DR wrote:


You really should make clear that the piece you refer to detailing an 'Obamabacklash' is actually written by a former speech writer to Former President Clinton' or is this just another example of your lazy journalism. The admitted;y well written article finishes with this interesting piece of information that I'm sure you could have flagged up for your readers.

'Ted Widmer, Director of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, is a Senior Research Fellow at the New America America Foundation, and was a foreign policy speechwriter for President Clinton (1997-2000)'

Incidentally do you feel that you yourself fall into the 'rather adoring press' but for Hillary? I was under the impression that the BBC had no political bias so you should really be just reporting the facts or your take on the facts rather than trying to redress the balance. Is there any chance that you could answer some of the points rasied by any of those commenting on your blog as most other BBC bloggers do?

  • 10.
  • At 12:27 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Craig McKee wrote:

So Arnie is set to endorse Mccain while Huckabee is "Chuck Norris approved". This has to set up the movie of the millenium.....
Arnie and Chuck Norris slug it out as rivals then are forced by circumstance to team up to take on the "Obamamonster" - an unstoppable force having already vanquished the legendary hero from the past "the comeback kid" it is sweeping all from its path......

PS if Mr Spielberg reads this blog and wants to discuss development of the script (only 2 conditions Will Smith is obvious as Obama and Tom Hanks meets a grizzly end in scene 1...)then I'm sure Justin can put him in touch..

  • 11.
  • At 02:30 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Betsy Ross wrote:

I do not see how former British prime minister could help either canidate in the democratic nomination process. To be honest Americans could care less about what forgien heads of state think. The election is about who can best serve teh American people not the Brits, we chased them out a long time ago.

  • 12.
  • At 03:00 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • RS wrote:

Colin Powell would make an interesting endorser. But who would he endorse?

Any ideas?

(P.S. Justin, sorry if this is a double post. You really need to get your "post-a-comment" thing fixed. The 502 errors and timeouts are very frustrating)

  • 13.
  • At 05:08 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • David wrote:

I find all this talk of endorsements fairly amusing at this stage. For example John Kerry's endorsement of Obama is no doubt for some people a ringing endorsement for some of us who remember following the last election and the promises of seeing it through to the end Mister Kerry's word is fairly lacking in credit. Any expectation of any sort of endorsement coming from Al Gore seems premature given the distance he's taken to mainstream politics; unless Hilary or Obama were to take a very strong stance on issue that directly affected the environment I sincerely doubt we'll get much more then a peep out of him. Edward's endorsement has a lot less value since the New Hampshire primary because when Hilary won and Edwards came in third a lot of people who were on the peripheries of the Edwards camp went over to Obama (which I think is fairly apparent as he's been in third place by a fair margin in all the states following New Hampshire) because they sought a candidate of change and Obama and Edwards did have bar some key differences here and there on a simplified level the same message.

Frankly for the most part the truly valuable endorsements have already been given and the endorsements that are coming out now and that will come out for the rest of primary season will only be strengthening calls to the candidates base - both Giuliani and Schwarzenegger are financial republicans and fairly left of center on social issues for republicans and share fairly close positions on the economy and social moirés with Mr. McCain. Baring a cross party endorsement which is incredibly unlikely - all that's left is to watch the candidates fight it out. How the candidates present themselves in public and how undecided voters interpret and feel about that is going to be the deciding factor.

I'd love to see a cross party ticket this election I don't think it’s remotely likely but a Hilary - McCain ticket would be very fun to watch. Obama and Giuliani might also make a good combination.

I hate to say it as a yellow-dog Texas democrat but lately I've definitely been considering voting for McCain - I know people who question his integrity though I can't say I'm satisfied with their reasons... I am concerned about some of the legislation he had proposed in the past year-and-a-half concerning the internet (it was well intended, but the wording of the bill left a lot of really bad loop holes). And then there's Romney who of late seems to have shown a very realpolitik attitude which almost quashes my concerns about his religious stance (lets face it Mormons' tend to have a very conservative view of society - puritanical comes to mind) if he demonstrates his business expertise, that is to say presents a plan outlining correcting the deficit, rebalancing our economy, and meeting our current commitments in the Middle East through cooperative ventures with the global community I would be hard pressed not to give his candidacy close consideration.

  • 14.
  • At 06:07 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Mark, Fort Collins, Colorado wrote:

I doubt any candidate is looking for an endorsement by any international figure. An international endorsement would do more harm than good as nationalistic pride runs high during election years.

Interesting side note to the Obama/Bill article:

Yesterday morning (Jan 30th), Obama came to Denver to speak at an arena at the University of Denver. Over 13,000 people stood in line in -17C temps for two hours waiting to get into the arena. When the arena filled to capacity of 9,500 a gym next door was opened to another 2,500 people, and thousands more sat outside in the rugby stands listening to his speech via loudspeakers.

That is the kind of excitement that Obama's inspirational message is generating.

On the evening of the 30th, Bill Clinton and Chelsea stumped for Hillary at the very same venue. 3,000 people showed up.

Enough said.

  • 15.
  • At 06:46 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Andy Stidwill wrote:

I think Bonnie Greer makes a very good point in today's Daily Telegraph, where she points out the pressure some African-Americans are putting on others in their community to support Obama, using the argument that a chance to elect a black president may not come again for a long time. She argues against this position, effectively saying that that is a defeatist attitude to take, and that Obama should and could be the first of many potential black presidents. Personally, she continues to support Hillary Clinton.;jsessionid=1MODJ0GRJBKKVQFIQMGCFFOAVCBQUIV0?xml=/opinion/2008/01/31/do3102.xml

  • 16.
  • At 07:42 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Greta wrote:

Speaking of influential endorsements ... who will win MoveOn's straw poll to be announced Friday? Can 3.2 million grassroots Democrats influence the National Central Committee?

MoveOn requires 66 percent support for an endorsement ... not likely.

  • 17.
  • At 09:21 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Brett wrote:

"picking people who count" !!! Now that's what an American election is truly about! Pleasing the people "who count" i.e. the rich and powerful. How ironic that you should come right out with it while at the same time hilariosly suggesting with extreme condescension that the "real prize" are "gritty working folks". Well, if those inelegant "gritty working folks" are the real "prize" then doesn't if follow that indiviuals from among them should be the ones chosen to make the endorsements? Or are we to have it that their 'betters', avuncular celebrity or authoritavive political figures should be instructing these hapless "working folk" on which pre-sorted candidate to rubber stamp? If Obama or any other rich candidate like him wants to know how to put "gritty working folks" in their place then no better place to start than a reactionary like Two-faced Tony B and his 'New Labor'. Who knows - if Obama can put "gritty working folks" securely 'inside the box', he may even pick up Rupert Murdoch's endorsement, too. Now there's someone who really counts!

  • 18.
  • At 11:08 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • eh wrote:

Colin Powell has already pseudo endorsed Obama (gave an interview and talked the the Nation) he's been advising him of foreign policy. Only thing is the big media outlets don't talk about it.

  • 19.
  • At 11:19 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Eh wrote:

Uhm Obama has been endorsed by a former fed chairman
Is that not substantial enough?

  • 20.
  • At 12:11 AM on 01 Feb 2008,
  • John Kecsmar wrote:

#10 RS

ditto...I've given up trying to send posts recently, too many times-outs and errors!

My last post, which hasn't appeared owing to time-out/errors, basically saying if Blair does endorse somoneone, then it must be Hillary. Since Bill, endorsed (in a very strange unfamilair UK political way) Blair and supported him. So he doesn't have much choice, unless of course he (Blair) still thinks he is in UK Govt, and does what he wants and hopes no one will notice or complain at his duplicity!

  • 21.
  • At 04:35 AM on 01 Feb 2008,
  • Allen wrote:

Its funny to see Brits talk about American politics.

The "best" candidates of the Democratic Party are no longer running? I guess Dennis Kucinich DID see that UFO and a "Department of Peace" is a good idea.

Ron Paul's campaign is the only one not broke? I guess Obama pulling in USD32 mil in one month could not have paid for his staff.

John Edwards is holding his cards to his chest to wait and see who offers him what? There's one thing certain about JE, he's not a sellout. Obama and HRC channeled Edwards because he now controls the hearts and minds of the Democratic Party. The issues, not self-advancement, matter most to him.

Predictions from a yank:

1. Super Tuesday does not decide the Democratic Party's nominee. There will be a brokered convention with FL and MI delegates allowed to vote.

2. McCain locks up the GOP nod. Meanwhile, the Tories copy ANOTHER Republican slogan for the upcoming election. David Cameron the uniter, not the divider?

3. Michael Bloomberg will not run because the Democratic nomination will not be settled until after March.

  • 22.
  • At 05:31 AM on 01 Feb 2008,
  • Brian wrote:

Edwards is waiting for a clear winner of Super Tuesday before he endorses. He wants a cabinet appointment (likely AG), and does not want to alienate the winner by endorsing their opponent.

  • 23.
  • At 07:32 AM on 01 Feb 2008,
  • David Cunard wrote:

Justin falls into the same trap that many Britons do when attempting to compare US and UK party politics; Bill Clinton may have supported Tony Blair, but the Democratic Party is not to be compared to Labour, and neither are the Republicans aligned with the (UK) Conservatives. America has nothing as "far left" as Labour, and Britain has nothing as "far right" as the Republicans. The direct comparison should be between Democrats and Conservatives who generally espouse similar policies. However, whether an endorsement from David Cameron would help either Clinton or Obama is very doubtful.

  • 24.
  • At 01:34 PM on 01 Feb 2008,
  • Justin wrote:

#21 David Cunard,

Where in my post have I compared the political philosphy of any of the parties you mentioned? I am well aware that although Labour do describe the Democrats as their sister party they have a slightly different ideaology toward politics but that does not deter from the fact that Bill Clinton is a very popular figure to Labour supporters and Tony Blair is a popular figure across the Atlantic. However, your description of alligning the Tories with the Democrats is very wrong. Despite their differences, Labour and the Democrats do have a close relationship just as the Tories and the Republicans work colsely together. But the Labour Party do not take any advice from the Republican Party and teh Tories do not heed advice from the Demcorats. Bill Clinton even said at the Labour Party conference "We have Tories in America too. Their called Republicans."

  • 25.
  • At 04:01 AM on 02 Feb 2008,
  • H K Livingston wrote:

> Rise to the challenge of picking people who count.


Will you consider the following, Mr Webb?
1 former Sen George Mitchell
2 Gov Bill Richardson
3 ret Gen Wesley Clark
4 former Sen Sam Nunn

"If you don't mind":
5 Sen Joseph Lieberman, Sen Russ Feingold and Mayor Michael Bloomberg (if you don't mind their religion)
6 Madeleine Albright, Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein (if you don't mind their gender)

  • 26.
  • At 08:45 AM on 02 Feb 2008,
  • Greta wrote:

Bill and Tony dis-integrated the Left in both countries. Ronnie and Maggie re-formed the Right.

New Labour, along with American neo-dems and neo-cons, supported the war in Iraq. The Tories and old-school Dems are, to whatever degree, the loudest opposition voices. Sands shift. Shapes shift.

Political parties are rife with historical handstands ... who can forget that Andy Jackson was a Democrat or that Abe Lincoln was a Republican? Antebellum American political discourse respecting federal and states' rights is exactly the opposite today. Interestingly, it was JFK who finally convinced Blacks that although the Republican party was the party of Lincoln, it was not the party that was going to free them in 1960.

And speaking of Kennedy -- and endorsements -- don't underestimate the Kennedy affect on the Latino community (sans ex-Batista Cubans in Florida, whose delegates the Clintons are working overtime to restore). I grew up in a majority Latino western state. Anyone who lives in the old southwest can tell you that there was often a framed photo of JFK in Mexican-American homes, right next to the crucifix and another photo of a great leader, Benito Juarez, the founder of Mexico.

This embracing of Kennedy was remarkable in regions occupied by Spanish (then Mexican, then Mexican-American) landholders for nearly 500 years. Remember, America had 200 years of European settlement under its belt before the "Third English Civil War."

The press reduces the larger Black and Lation to opposition gangs. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mexican-Americans loved Kennedy, and Caroline's endorsement will be meaningful. Not everyone in America is divorced from their heritage and their family history, Alberto Gonzales and Ken Salazar notwithstanding.
And I wonder ... what would Kier Hardy have to say about Tony Blair?

  • 27.
  • At 12:53 AM on 04 Feb 2008,
  • David Cunard wrote:

Justin - My response to your remarks was written having read a number of similar pieces authored by yourself. Having lived in California for 40 years, virtually commuting between Los Angeles and London, and being a registered voter in the UK, my description of the alignment of the Conservatives and Democrats is not "very wrong" as you presumptuously state; it remains the relative correlation of the two parties. What Conservative politician would espouse the possibility of 100 years in Iraq as has Mr McCain? David Cameron and Mrs Clinton are more on the same page in this regard; if that were not the case, Mr Cameron would be supporting the stance of the currently presumptive Republican candidate. You are entirely mistaken about Tony Blair; his popularity on this side of the Atlantic is solely because of his support of the President for the invasion of Iraq. If it were not for that, he, like George Brown, would be of little concern to the American public. I submit that British society knows little about American politics and seizes upon personalities rather than policy. Generally speaking, Americans have little or no knowledge of the conduct of 'New' Labour, for example, the amount of 'stealth' taxes imposed or the disgraceful changes in the National Health Service. Apart from a passing interest in the foibles of the Royal Family, almost all that is reported in the (serious) American media, to which the BBC is does not belong, is the part British armed forces have played in the Middle East. This was, as you may remember, a direct contrast to the attitude of the French government, which irked so many that there was an attempted boycott of all things French, going so far as to rename "French fries" as "Freedom fries."

Bill Clinton, ever the expert at good relations (excepting perhaps the last fortnight) would inevitably have said to a Labour audience that "We have Tories in America too" but you may recall that on another occasion he also said "I did not have sex with that woman", so not all of his utterances are to be taken at face value. The mistaken impression that there is an alignment of the Conservative Party with the Republicans originates from the time of the Reagan-Thatcher entente and their personal relationship. However, this does not represent the true persuasion; consider that Democrat Franklin Roosevelt was closer to Churchill than he possibly could have been to Attlee, as was John F Kennedy to Harold Macmillan, but not Lyndon Johnson to Harold Wilson. As I wrote earlier, ‘America has nothing as "far left" as Labour, and Britain has nothing as "far right" as the Republicans.’ Despite your protestations to the contrary, that remains so and I feel sure that when Mrs Clinton is President she will have a fine association with David Cameron at such time as he enters 10 Downing Street.

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