The endorsements game
Mon October 5, 2009 9:28 am

This morning, Mark Miner of the Perry campaign touts the list of endorsements the governor has received under this headline:

Gov. Perry’s Endorsements Represent Diverse, Statewide Support

• Texas Association of Realtors
• Texas Chemical Council
• Texas Home School Coalition PAC
• T. Boone Pickens, Energy Entrepreneur
• Texas Apartment Association
• Texas Oil and Gas Association President Rob Looney
• Texas Civil Justice League
RNC Committeewoman Cathie Adams (also president of Texas Eagle Forum)
• Texas Municipal Police Association
• Texas State Association of Fire Fighters
• Texas Cattle Feeders Association
• Texas Republican County Chairman Association President Linda Rogers
• Texas Chiropractic Association
• Texas Alliance for Life
• Texas Right to Life
• Texas Society of Professional Engineers
• Conservative Republicans of Texas President Dr. Steve Hotze
• Texas Department of Public Safety Officers Association PAC
• State Director of Americans for Prosperity Peggy Venable
• Texas Poultry Federation
• Free Market Foundation President Kelly Shackelford
• Texas Optometric Association
• Texans for Life President Kyleen Wright
• Houston Realty Business Coalition
• Concerned Women for America State Director Ann Hettinger
• Texas Recreational Vehicle Association
• Heidi Group Founder Carol Everett (former abortion clinic operator)
• Texas Pest Control Association
• Justice at the Gate Founder Alice Patterson
• Eagle Forum Founder Phyllis Shlafly

How much does this matter? Like most things in a political campaign, it means something, but it doesn’t mean everything. You always have to ask, What are the expectations? In the case of endorsements, the expectation is that trade associations are going to support a friendly incumbent – so much so that this is called the “friendly incumbent rule.” When a trade association doesn’t support the incumbent, that choice too must be measured by expectations. Thus, the Farm Bureau’s endorsement of Hutchison has to be discounted because the organization has a history of falling out with Perry.

I don’t think Perry’s list is that impressive. It may take on more muscle as other groups choose sides – and I expect that Perry will end up with many more endorsements than Hutchison – but many of these names amount to winning the same votes multiple times: Texas Alliance for Life, Texas Right to Life, Texans for Life, Heidi group, Ann Hettinger, Cathie Adams, Phyllis Schafly, Steve Hotze. We have known since day one that these names would be in Perry’s corner. Their collective weight sends a signal to voters on the hardcore right, but their very number may alienate soccer moms and independents, if they notice the list at all. The reality of the list is the exact opposite of the headline (Gov. Perry’s Endorsements Represent Diverse, Statewide Support.) Not true. Not diverse. Same old same old.

And then there is what we don’t know: How hard did Perry have to work to get the endorsements of these associations? Did his campaign have to ask for them? No one is going to tell the governor no, especially not this governor. But the emphasis on ultraconservative groups could indicate that some trade associations are keeping their powder dry, waiting to see how the race develops. In fact, they would be foolish not to.

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