OCTOBER 19, 2007
The AP did a story last night noting that John McCain and Mike Huckabee were both angling for Brownback's endorsement yesterday, or at the least the goodwill of his supporters, by offering up nice comments about the senator. Notes the story:
While McCain has a voting record similar to Brownback's on cultural issues, McCain prompts skepticism on the right flank of the party because he isn't a high-profile crusader against abortion rights and gay marriage. Brownback's backing could signal to Christian conservatives that they can trust McCain. ...Huckabee, a Southern Baptist preacher, is another favorite of religious conservatives. But like Brownback, he has struggled to rally that voting bloc around his candidacy. He, too, could benefit from Brownback's backing. ... It's harder to imagine any other Republican in the field getting a Brownback nod, although former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson is a possibility. The Kansas senator has bitterly criticized Romney, and Giuliani is disliked by many religious conservatives because of his abortion rights and gay rights positions.
I don't think any of this is crazy. But I'd keep three things in mind as you think about this stuff:
1.) If Brownback were to endorse Romney or Giuliani, it would have real "juice" as they say, given their problems with social conservatives and Brownback's credibility in those circles. If, on the other hand, Brownback were to endorse Huckabee or even Thompson, I'm not sure how much it would benefit them (and, therefore, him). Brownback doesn't have much actual support among voters to throw their way, and their credibility problems with social conservatives are much smaller (or, as in Huckabee's case, virtually non-existent). McCain fits somewhere in the middle here, I think. But at this point his problem isn't so much suspicion among conservatives--though he definitely arouses that--as a lack of money. I'm not sure how Brownback helps there.
2.) If you were going to endorse someone in the primary, I'm not sure why you would endorse someone who didn't have a decent shot at winning. Particularly if you were a politician as ambitious as Brownback (see this profile for more on that). As it stands, Giuliani or Romney is likely to be the nominee. Unless that changes, I'm not sure why Brownback would consider endorsing anyone else.
3.) Now compare the two front-runners. The case against Giuliani seems open and shut: He's pro-choice, he's fairly sympathetic to gay rights (though less so than he used to be), he's been married three times. Romney, on the other hand, at least says the right things on social issues and, so far as I know, has lived an exemplary personal life. Moreover, while Brownback has attacked the sincerity of Romney's abortion conversion, it's important to remember that Brownback himself had an abrupt conversion on the issue during his first run for congress, something that inspired considerable skepticism at the time. So Brownback of all people might be forgiving of a conversion that looks politically-timed. (I think the reason he wasn't more forgiving on the campaign trail was, well, exactly that: He was on the camapign trail.)