What Price Political Endorsements?

One good thing about this year’s seemingly endless Republican presidential campaign — it has demonstrated, clearly and conclusively, how empty and meaningless political “endorsements” really are.

We know this because Rick Santorum endorsed Mitt Romney in 2008, saying that Romney was the clear conservative candidate who could be trusted.  Now Santorum is arguing that Romney is a wimpy flip-flopper who couldn’t possibly be expected to govern in accordance with conservative principles.  What has changed?  Not much — other than that now Santorum is running against Romney for the 2012 Republican nomination.

We should all be grateful to Santorum for giving us such a powerful demonstration of how silly endorsements are.  Which really reflects Santorum’s beliefs — his wholehearted statements of support for Romney in 2008, or his strong criticisms of Romney in 2012?  The correct answer, in all likelihood, is neither.  In 2008, Santorum probably wanted to weigh in on the race — because it is hard for any career politician to remain fully on the sidelines — and to have a chit in the bank if Romney won.  In 2012, Santorum has been possessed by his own lust for national office, and he’s not going to let his past statements get in the way of his ambitions.

It’s hard for me to believe that any voter attaches much weight to endorsements.  After Santorum’s abrupt about-face, no voter should.  Whether they come from Republicans or Democrats, political endorsements are the product of calculation, not conviction.

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