Politics

Gov. Haley’s Hollow Endorsement

Backing from South Carolina governor not likely to help Rubio, journalist says

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley remains a popular figure in her state, but her endorsement yesterday of Sen. Marco Rubio is not likely to matter much, New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters said Thursday.

Peters said on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that endorsements traditionally have been a reliable predictor of the party’s nominee. But if that logic still applied, he said, former Gov. Jeb Bush should be in first place instead of fending off speculation about his drop-out plans.

“In this election, the relevance of endorsements has completely faded away,” said Peters. “I don’t know that an endorsement means much more to Marco Rubio right now than kind of just an added bit of symbolism, the notion that he is the next generation of the Republican Party.”

Haley was arguably even more popular among South Carolina Republicans four years ago. Yet her endorsement then of Mitt Romney did not prevent him from losing to Newt Gingrich by 12 percentage points in the state’s GOP primary.

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Peters said in a year when outsider fervor is so strong, endorsements from elected officials might do more harm than good for the recipients.

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“The leader of the field right now has zero endorsements from Congress, right? Donald Trump,” he said. “And that is not a hindrance to him. That’s an asset, as far as he and his supporters are concerned.”

Peters said Rubio has been content to let Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz train their fire at each other. But he said the dynamics will change as the rest of the field falls away.

“The race is very quickly narrowing into the Trump vs. the anti-Trump candidates,” he said. “Jeb Bush tried that. It didn’t really work for him. Haley could not be firmer in her conviction that Trump is bad for the Republican Party, bad for the country. So I think pretty soon, you’re going to have to see Marco Rubio wrestle with that. He’s kind of laid back and not gone after Trump in a direct way.”

As for Bush, Saturday’s vote in South Carolina could mark the end for the former Florida governor, Peters said. He said Jeb supporters vented frustration at a recent Bush campaign event.

“It was like open season at this event,” he said. “It was very startling. And if you’re Jeb, kind of sad.”

The big question, Peters said, is how quickly Bush might endorse Rubio if he does drop out and whether he will release his donors to contribute to Rubio.

“I don’t know that he’s going to do that, by the way,” he said. “Nothing about the Rubio-Bush relationship over the course of this campaign has not been very friendly or generous. So I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Jeb wait.”

Peters said former President George W. Bush’s efforts on behalf of his brother appear to have done little to rescue the campaign in the Palmetto State. The story was the same in New Hampshire, where former President Bill Clinton did not prevent his wife from getting blown out by Sen. Bernie Sanders in that state’s Democratic primary.

“It’s pretty amazing,” he said. “And you kind of had — you have the same thing happening on both sides.”

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