Last night we all learned that today would be the day when Governor Rick Snyder endorsed Mitt Romney for president.
This is a time-honored ritual, not all that different in some ways from waiting to see if Billy will ask Katie to the prom. But what nobody ever seems to ask is, what effect this all has?
I mean, will Joe Sixpack or Susie Salarywoman come home tonight, throw open the door and say, “Honey, did you hear the news? Snyder endorsed Romney. I guess that settles it for us.“
Of course not. Years ago, an old newspaper editorial writer said that when a newspaper endorses a candidate for President, it’s like wetting your pants wearing a dark suit.
It gives you a nice, warm feeling, and nobody notices.
For awhile, anyway. There’s an element of truth there. I don’t think any endorsement ever switches a single vote. Not on its own, anyway. But most people’s voting decisions are based on a wide variety of factors. When top politicians endorse a candidate, it can help to create an aura of inevitability which dries up money and, eventually, support, for their rivals. Third parties like the Libertarians and the Greens traditionally get less than one percent of the vote.
Now, a far larger chunk of the population agrees with their principles, but few people like being with a sure loser. There are still those who go around saying that Rick Snyder is not a politician. Snyder says that himself.
But that statement is completely untrue. The governor may not have been at this game very long, but he’s one of the most shrewdly successful politicians I’ve ever seen. And there are few more effective political techniques than to claim that you aren’t a politician.
Take this endorsement, for example. Potentially, it was calculated to do much more for the state of Michigan and Snyder himself than for Mitt Romney. Here’s why. The governor is making it at the perfect time. Romney is down in the polls. He desperately needs to pull out a win here to get his nomination back on track. If he does so, and wins Michigan’s primary twelve days from now, Snyder can claim to have made a difference. That could give him and our state some chips to cash in, should Romney make it to the White House.
Now, a cynic might ask how an endorsement from Snyder is supposed to help. Right now, the governor isn’t doing well in the polls. More people disapprove than approve of the job he’s doing.
Why would this help Romney? Well, the fact is that most of the people who dislike the governor aren’t going to be voting in the GOP primary anyway. By November, things could be different.
Of course, there is always a risk in such endorsements. Former Michigan Gov. Jim Blanchard was an early enthusiastic backer of Hillary Clinton four years ago, and helped her win Michigan’s primary.
You haven’t seen Big Jim being offered a whole lot of jobs in the Obama administration, have you? There’s another calculation this year, however. Privately, Republican leaders have serious doubts that either Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich could win in November They are convinced Romney can. A year from now, we should know just how and whether the governor’s endorsement paid off.