Christine O’Donnell and the Fix Endorsement Hierarchy

at 11:06 AM ET, 12/14/2011

The news shook the political world: perennial Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell made her pick in the 2012 presidential race last night. And, that pick was former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

Ok, not really.


U.S. Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell speaks to her supporters after she won the Delaware U.S. Senate primary against Rep. Mike Castle on September 14, 2010 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
But O’Donnell’s decision to weigh in on Romney’s behalf did get us thinking: where does her backing fit into the Fix Endorsement Hierarchy?

For the uninitiated, the Fix Endorsement Hierarchy aims to categorize the various types of endorsements in the political world in terms of their relative importance. You can scroll down to the bottom of this post for a full recitation of the various categories in the Endorsement Hierarchy. (And, yes, it is a blatant rip-off of Bill Simmons’ Levels of Losing.)

At first glance, the O’Donnell endorsement seems like an obvious “pariah endorsement” slot. Yes, she was the Republican nominee for Senate in Delaware in 2010 but she lost that race badly and, in so doing, proved herself to be something short of a serious candidate — though, of course, not a witch.

O’Donnell seemed to be pushing for the “pariah endorsement” in announcing her support of Romney Wednesday on CNN, telling that network that Romney’s flip-flopping was “one of the things that I like about him — because he’s been consistent since he changed his mind.” Um....

But, it’s impossible for us to categorize O’Donnell as a full-fledged “pariah endorsement” for one simple reason: the Romney campaign touted it.

“Christine has been a leader in the conservative movement for many years,” Romney said in a release put out by his campaign. “Christine recognizes that excessive government threatens us now and threatens future generations, and I am pleased to have her on my team.”

Why would Romney tout the endorsement? In theory, O’Donnell’s still retains credibility among some tea party activists. And her donor list — she raised $7.3 million in 2010 — is worth something to Romney.

So, if it’s not a “pariah endorsement” where does O’Donnell’s support for Romney fit?

After considerable thought — we are only half-kidding — it seems to us that O’Donnell’s endorsement is best understood as a “me for me” endorsement.

That is, her decision to back Romney is 95 percent (or more) about her desire to re-inject herself into the national political discussion — no matter how briefly — and 5 percent about her genuine belief in Romney or desire to help him win the nomination.

O’Donnell’s endorsement isn’t likely to have any appreciable influence on the outcome of the Republican presidential race. But, it does put her back in national spotlight, which means she’s winning. At least for a day.

The Fix Endorsement Hierarchy (ranked in order of influence)

* The Symbolic Endorsement: Ted Kennedy backing Barack Obama during the 2008 primaries.

* The In-State Statewide Endorsement: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist throwing his support to John McCain just before the Sunshine State presidential primary in 2008.

* The National Endorsement: Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty for Mitt Romney.

* The Celebrity Endorsement: Chuck Norris for Mike Huckabee in 2008.

* The Newspaper Endorsement: The Washington Post endorsing state Sen. Creigh Deeds in the 2009 Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary.

* Out-of-State Statewide Endorsement: South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint endorsing former Florida state House Speaker Marco Rubio in the 2010 Senate primary.

* The What Goes Around Comes Around Endorsement: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani endorsing former state House Speaker Marco Rubio in the 2010 Florida Senate primary.

* The Obligatory Endorsement: Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran endorsing McCain’s presidential bid in 2008.

* The “Me for Me” Endorsement: Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R) endorsing Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak’s (D) Senate campaign.

* The Non-Endorsement Endorsement: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) passing on an endorsement of Sen. David Vitter’s (R) 2010 re-election bid.

* The Pariah Endorsement: Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (D) endorsing anyone.

 
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