Some lawmakers opt not to embrace home-state 2008 hopefuls quickly

Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) is one of the only Democrats in her state who hasn’t backed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) for president.

“I’ve noticed there’s this new wave of energy with earlier endorsements,” Clarke said. “I just haven’t given the idea much thought yet.”

She’s not alone, though. As presidential candidates race to rack up congressional endorsements, in-state lawmakers who stay on the sidelines stand out.

At this point in the election cycle, presidential candidates are going to need to rack up all the endorsements they can get their hands on, according to Stephen Hess, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a professor at George Washington University.

“We’re in what’s called the Year of the Invisible Primary,” Hess said. “Instead of the real primary, these endorsements are like surrogate votes. People are measuring how well you’re doing by looking at who has endorsed you, how much money you raised and who’s on your staff.”

The only other New York Democrat in Congress not to formally endorse Clinton is Rep. Charles Rangel, although he has hinted several times at supporting her run.  On the Republican side in the state, ex-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is missing congressional endorsements from Reps. Randy Kuhl, John McHugh and Tom Reynolds.

In some cases, lawmakers have gone beyond withholding a home-state endorsement, and endorsed someone else. Rep. Trent Franks is the only member of Arizona’s  Republican delegation that hasn’t endorsed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Instead, Franks has showcased his “unequivocal support” for Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.).

“Among some of the frivolous laws we have, there isn’t one that mandates Arizonans to endorse Arizonans for president,” Franks’s spokeswoman, Rebeccah Ramey, said. “Duncan Hunter’s steady record on hard policy questions, his wisdom and character make him an excellent choice for the next American president.”

Hunter, however, has not secured any endorsements from his 18 fellow Republicans in California.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is still waiting on endorsements from two fellow members of his state’s Democratic delegation. Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) and his office dodged questions on the issue.

The other Illinois Democrat who hasn’t formally endorsed Obama, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, is doing so for much more apparent reasons. Emanuel has close ties to both Obama and Clinton, having worked in the Clinton White House.

“Emanuel is pulled more than one way in this election,” Hess said. “He’s best off staying on the sidelines on this one.”

Emanuel’s office said the only position the Illinois Democrat is taking on the endorsement issue is under his desk.

Shanto Iyengar, a professor of political science and communications at Stanford University, added that high-profile officials like Emanuel simply don’t want to issue an endorsement prematurely.

“The lessons in 2004 seem to suggest that both Bill Bradley and Al Gore made a mistake by coming out so early and endorsing Howard Dean,” Iyengar said.  “In the case of Al Gore, it was embarrassing. I think this time around there is a very strong incentive for endorsers to wait.”

Of the other candidates waiting on endorsements from home-state fellows, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) has gotten one of his three congressional Republicans in his state, Rep. Todd Tiahrt to endorse him. 

“These endorsements are competitive,” Iyengar said. “Everyone is keeping track of these things and people will wonder why you’re not endorsing a candidate from your state.”

Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R- Tenn.) said he’ll stop backing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) if ex-Sen. Fred Thompson (R–Tenn.) throws his hat into the race. Thompson told Fox News earlier this month he was “giving some thought” to the 2008 race.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R), another Tennessee lawmaker who has backed Romney, has not commented on whether or not she’ll switch.

“Congresswoman Blackburn has the utmost respect for former Sen. Thompson,” Blackburn’s spokesman Matt Lambert said. “But right now it’s pure speculation on whether or not he’s going to run. She remains committed to the Romney campaign.”
Blackburn serves as the Tennessee co-chairwoman of Romney’s presidential campaign and is also the national co-chairwoman of Women for Romney.

The only presidential candidates to secure all congressional endorsements from Democrats in their home state are former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), Sens. Chris Dodd (Conn.) and Joe Biden (Del.) and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is the only candidate to do so on the Republican side.

It should be noted, however, that Biden and Huckabee only needed one lawmaker to say they had secured widespread state-party support, two for Richardson.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) hasn’t secured any presidential endorsements from his fellow state mates; nor have Tommy Thompson, Jim Gilmore, or Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).