Don Pesci: Do political endorsements matter?


First Lady Michelle Obama has endorsed Democrat Dannel Malloy for re-election as Connecticut's governor. In a picture worth a thousand words, Mrs. Obama was shown on “Capitol Report” being bussed robustly by U.S. Sen. Dick Blumenthal, who no doubt would endorse Mr. Malloy were Mr. Blumenthal a newspaper; some would argue that Mr. Blumenthal  is a newspaper. The winner of the Malloy contest with Republican Tom Foley will become governor of a state first in the nation in progressive governance and crony capitalism and last in almost every other important measurement of prosperity.
Will the first lady's endorsement matter to anyone but hardened Democrats, or to voting age high-schoolers who prefer healthy and pallid lunches to pizza and brownies? Probably not. For politicians, endorsements are little more than shows of party solidarity, and there are few political marriages in the nation more solid than that between Mr. Malloy and President Obama. Indeed, newspaper editorial endorsements in Connecticut’s left-of-center news media also have become highly predictable displays of ideological solidarity.
The lame-duck  president has had some difficulty getting himself invited to campaign soirees elsewhere in the Disunited States. Democrats vying for office in Red States  have tended to shun the president, if only to avoid the falling timbers of Mr. Obama’s foreign and domestic policies. Mr. Obama’s foreign policy is recklessly absurd because all foreign policy but his is constructed around a realpolitik understanding of friends and enemies. Mr. Obama is the first U.S. president who seems incapable of distinguishing between the two. In domestic policy, Mr. Obama should have devoted his energies during his first term to settling market uncertainties occasioned by a ruptured housing mortgage bubble partly caused by Beltway favoritism and the dismantling of the Glass Steagall Acta Franklin Roosevelt measure that that prevented investment banks  from meddling in commercial- banking activities. Instead of attending to the crisis at hand, Mr. Obama created a crisis of his own making by instituting Obamacare, a progressive baby step on the way to universal health care.
Mr. Obama will be appearing in Bridgeport – if, indeed he does make an appearance, a previous campaign appearance on behalf of Mr. Malloy having been called off because of the Ebola crisis – only a few days after Anne Melissa Dowling, Connecticut’s deputy commissioner of the Department of Insurance, announced that  of course she was concerned about insurance-policy cancellations in Connecticut.
“Dowling, NBCConnecticut reported, “says some 55,000 people across the state will have their policies canceled either because it no longer meets the requirements of the Affordable Care Act or because grandfathered policies that didn’t need to meet requirements have simply been canceled by the insurer.”
Even here in true blue Connecticut, some members of the state’s all Democratic congressional delegation have proven resistant to Mr. Obama’s charming attempt to make the world over according to his eccentric predilections.  Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, for instance, has announced she will not attend Mr. Obama’s prospective campaign appearance of behalf of Mr. Malloy unless the president somehow manages to cross her path in her own district. The lady is very busy attending to her re-election – partly by composing and endorsing killer ads against her opponent, Republican Mark Greenberg, that even The Hartford Courant considered “creatively misleading” and (gasp!) “false.” Mrs. Esty has announced she would not be calling on the president when he appears in Bridgeport, only a hop, skip and a jump from Mrs. Esty's 5th District.  Connecticut is such a small state that anywhere in the state is but a hop, skip and a jump from anywhere else.
The Courant, the state’s largest  newspaper, endorsed Mrs. Esty, the second time it had done so. One of the indispensable determinants that garner Courant endorsements is experience in office, a requirement the paper waived during its first endorsement of Mrs. Esty, who at the time was running against a far more experienced candidate, Republican nominee for the U.S. House in the 5th District Andrew Roraback. The notion that the more experienced candidate for a particular office ought to receive the approbation of voters is, in fact, an argument for the perpetual election of incumbents, except on those rare occasions when the retirement of an incumbent leaves an office vacant. It is a policy, highly suspect in a constitutional republic, that would have stopped the American Revolution in its tracts: King George III, who inherited the British throne at the age of  12, had a much longer and deeper experience running the American colonies than did any of the founding fathers of the country. Most Americans are uncomfortable with perpetual monarchies or unchanging legislatures.
But not The  Courant. The paper’s current endorsement of Governor Malloy is riddled with enough qualifiers to sink a battleship, and this year, as usual, Democrats in Connecticut’s congressional delegation have garnered the paper’s affections; this at a time when Republicans are expected to retain control of the House. Some bean counters expect Republicans to capture the Senate as well. As the whole of New England moves further left, the usual endorsements will increasingly be taken with a ton of salt by voters less progressive than the usual progressive representatives.
Don Pesci (  is a Connecticut political writer.