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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
13 Feb 2016
Make America Great Again -- at Torture!

The undisputed front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination who, like every other remaining … Read More.

6 Feb 2016
Cracking the Code of Campaign-Speak

"Do you ever get the feeling," asked humorist Robert Orben, "that the only reason we have elections is to … Read More.

30 Jan 2016
Is There Only One True Progressive?

Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. In our polarized politics, the … Read More.

What Endorsements Can Tell Us


The endorsement of a political candidate by another politician generally draws a well-deserved yawn from voters. But over the past half-century of savoring and covering American politics, I have learned that an endorsement can tell us something quite important about the individual endorsing as well as about the individual being endorsed.

Permit me to tell you about Mississippi Republican Trent Lott, who in 1988 was the House minority whip while trying to win a close race for the U.S. Senate. That same year, then-Vice President George H.W. Bush was the heavy favorite to win the GOP nomination to succeed the term-limited President Ronald Reagan.

One of Bush's underdog challengers in the primaries was Rep. Jack Kemp of New York. Ordinarily, discretion and self-interest would dictate that an ambitious Senate aspirant (Lott) would either prudently endorse the vice president or remain neutral. Instead, Trent Lott boldly tossed caution to the wind by endorsing his House colleague.

The next year, long after George H.W. Bush had won and had become the 41st president, I had a chat with Lott and told him how I admired his putting personal loyalty ahead of political advantage in endorsing Kemp and inviting the wrath of the vaunted Bush political juggernaut. Sen. Lott answered me bluntly: "Today in Washington, there are two people who remember that I endorsed Jack Kemp — you and President Bush!"

That same year, Rep. Dick Gephardt, the Missouri Democrat, tried to become the first U.S. House member since James A. Garfield in 1880 to win his party's presidential nomination. Gephardt did in fact win the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses and, as a result, became president of Des Moines for a week.

But what really impressed me about the Missorian's campaign was the number and diversity of his House colleagues who went to Iowa on his behalf and who stayed to work by running a county campaign headquarters for their friend.

I can remember Reps. Sandy Levin of Michigan, Marvin Leath and Martin Frost of Texas, Mike Synar of Oklahoma, Dan Glickman of Kansas, Butler Derrick of South Carolina, Jim Cooper of Tennessee, Ed Jenkins of Georgia and Bob Wise of West Virginia. There were others. But the willingness of all of them to sleep in unpretentious quarters, eat in marginal hash-houses and put in the long hours a campaign demands spoke volumes about Gephardt and the rare loyalty he inspired. Yes, he lost the nomination fight, but to me, Dick Gephardt was a big 1988 winner.

Which brings us to 2012 and endorsements. Republican Newt Gingrich served 10 terms in the House, where he became speaker after being architect and engineer of the first GOP takeover in 40 years. During his 20 House years, Gingrich served with 489 House Republicans. According to his campaign, a grand total of 10 colleagues have come forward to endorse Gingrich.

For Rick Santorum, the news is just as bleak. During two House terms, he served with 222 Republican members, none of whom has seen fit to endorse him. In two terms in the U.S. Senate, Santorum served with 89 different GOP senators. None has endorsed Santorum.

Mitt Romney, as of this writing, has been endorsed by 63 current House members and 14 current senators, which may or may not tell us something about him or them.

What's that old refrain about "those who know him best"?

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




4 Comments | Post Comment
I learn so much from reading these columns. Another interesting read, Mr. Shields and thanks for clarifying why no one of any real worth was endorsing these guys. It validates that their lies and deception during this campaign is exactly how they conduct business and themselves both personally and professionally and those who know them and worked with them do not want to see either of them back in public office. As for Mitt Romney, you said it best, "Mitt Romney, as of this writing, has been endorsed by 63 current House members and 14 current senators, which may or may not tell us something about him or them." It seems Mitt wins their endorsement more by default than anything else.
Comment: #1
Posted by: demecra zydeem
Fri Feb 17, 2012 1:48 AM
Sir;... The phenomenon you are seeing today, with so few endorsments and so much caution is the result of a single obvious element of human behavior: Cowardice... No one want to be a passenger in a life raft after giving a salute to the captain who sunk the ship... The candidates running for president are not competing to win; but to lose... Their common claim to be the first champion of conservatism is the kiss of death administered by the radicals they have courted and created... The litmus test they have created, of being more conservative is not going to fly with a public aching for change... The absolute worst true thing that can be said about Mr. Obama is that his version of change must have been his own election because no change is otherwise evident...
People are naturally conservative... It is no great feat to rally people around the cause of conservatism because that is only psychological self defense... There is a great difference between conservatism and what passes for conservatism among the reactionaries of this land...People all have a sense of an ideal past, but as bad as things were before the bubble, discontent was rampant...How far back does the republican party have in mind, because as long as they can keep that image nebulous and smelling like new car, and hot apple pie they have a chance... I suffer from my nostalgia, and I recognize it as a deadly disease... No one but the dead live in the past, and when people take their eyes off the future it sweeps over them like a tidal wave... History has swept over most republican rank and file, and they know it, so the promise of restoration of America to its former glory will always appeal to them...Their nostalgia is not a force great and visionary leadership is made of, and that is why the republican race is a race to failure... No one counting on their luck wants to be seen betting on a loser... Republicans want to survive in office, and that is problematic for many of them...The prospect of congressional carnage looms on the basis of presidential candidate who have taken poison to prove their loyalty to dead ideas and lost causes... America's hopes lie in the future when it can free itself from its past... The republicans have got to be gotten over... And so with the democrats... Parties grow out of the sense of injustice... Isn't that what Churchill suggested in his history??? When we learn we are in this situation together either to survive as a nation or to destroy ourselves with partisanship, the path will be clear...Only one theme will cure our discontent for good: and that is: Justice for all... Those who cannot follow that flag should be left behind...If the candidates would stop, and listen to the people, they would find, that whether left or right, the people demand change, and for this, they show better sense than any of those holding or seeking office... We are on the bullseye of history... Anyone who want to stay put is nuts... It is that one who can unite the whole population, and give a common direction to change who can forever complete the character of this nation...It is a tough sell, that to have a future of glory, we must recapture something of our past, but it is the same choice every person makes with their house on fire... What would we wish to preserve if we could only preserve one thing... Thanks
Comment: #2
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Feb 18, 2012 9:03 AM
Sweeney! Where the hell have you been? I was reading every word of this post inwardly congratulating the writer on the ability to pin the tail on the donkey. When I saw your name I said it out loud! You don't know me and I know only what you write, but I am a fan. I've missed you my friend and enjoyed reading your posts from before Obama was even a nominee.
Comment: #3
Posted by: demecra zydeem
Sat Feb 18, 2012 12:58 PM
Mssrs. Zydeem and Sweeney. I must day ditto to Mr. (or Ms.?) Zydeem. It's been awhile since I have seen you write Sweeney. Good to know you are alive and kicking. I agree the Repes have just about buried themselves for the coming election. Trashing science, human rights, and just about everything else that helps us humans to maintain our rationality and warmth has to fail ultimately, just as it did in Germany in the 40's.

I'm pretty sure the Dems will regain control of the House. I just hope they are up to the task. Time is running out for this planet.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Masako
Sat Feb 18, 2012 9:16 PM
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