WASHINGTON (CNN) – My email inbox is usually loaded these days with releases from the presidential candidates boasting of major presidential endorsements, usually from politicians and newspaper editorials. On the Republican side, John McCain is lining up tons of GOP endorsements, most recently from Florida’s popular former governor, Jeb Bush. The Republican establishment quickly seems to be lining up behind him – now that he appears to have the nomination mathematically wrapped up. These late endorsements are not exactly profiles in courage.
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are getting tons of endorsements as well. The lists keep on growing. They are both courting John Edwards right now. No doubt, they would each love to win Al Gore’s support. But how much do these endorsements really matter?
Most experts believe that Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s endorsement of McCain before the Florida primary helped. The same is probably true of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s endorsement of McCain. Both of those governors are popular.
But McCain suffered an embarrassing and crushing defeat over the weekend in Kansas despite the endorsement of Sen. Sam Brownback. In Massachusetts, Obama had the full-throated endorsements of both sitting senators, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, as well as the governor, Deval Patrick. But Clinton won. There are plenty of other examples.
I have often felt that most endorsements probably might not help, but usually can’t hurt. Of course, there are some endorsements that probably can hurt. I suspect The New York Times’ endorsement of McCain for the Republican nomination didn’t help shore up his support among the conservative base.