Suzan Delbene, candidate for Congress in the 1st and recent interviewee of this blog, scored two big endorsements in the last couple of days. First, Gov. Gregoire then Rep. Rick Larsen. Endorsements can be a game changer, especially in primary races. In the general election, the partisan is too big for one person to persuade large swaths of people (although I would argue that Colin Powell had a pretty hefty impact when he endorsed Obama in 2008).
Mostly, endorsements are felt on the local level, where people do not have enough information about candidates, so they trust someone else’s judgement. So the question remains, is this a game changer? Let’s take them one at a time.
Gov. Gregoire is not the most popular politician in this state. Whether it is her years of overly-cautious governing, or the brutal budgets she has had to enact, she has earned herself plenty of criticism from the left and the right. I doubt her endorsement is going to be much of a tipping point in terms of convincing people to vote for Delbene, however it will help convince donors that Delbene is the anointed candidate.
But what about Rick Larsen? Larsen used to represent a healthy part of the new 1st District, and people are used to voting for him. That said, he only won by narrow margins the last couple of years, so it isn’t the same as down in the 6th, where Norm Dicks pulls in 60% of the vote every year. Larsen had to scrape for every one of those votes, and frankly, Delbene will probably have to do the same. So Larsen’s endorsement could help, especially among Democrats, but it is by no means a sure thing.
One of the other candidates that I interviewed said that the “Delbene campaign is treating this campaign like there are important people and unimportant people, and only going after the important people. I’m going after everybody.” A shot across the bow, sure, but a testimony to Delbene’s focus on endorsements. She already received the endorsement of Gary Jensen, mayor of Ferndale. Now with these heavyweights in her pocket, she is building an air of inevitability before the first vote is ever cast.
Of course, as Mitt Romney will tell you, that doesn’t always work out as planned.