Paul Ryan’s tepid endorsement of Donald Trump yesterday, in which he did not say he “endorses” or “supports” Trump, raises the question of whether political endorsements actually make any difference. This one might because it could at least encourage donors worried that a Trump victory would do nothing to advance their policy priorities. But some political professionals have told me they never met a voter who voted for any candidate because so-and-so endorsed him or her. The feeling seems to be that orchestrating a steady drumbeat of endorsements for Candidate X might eventually build a sort of general comfort with X among voters, and even if not, endorsements can’t do any harm.
Or can they? One of this race’s many odd features has been endorsements by fans who may not be doing their favored candidate any favors at all. Consider:
Trump’s fans include Russian President Vladimir Putin, who called him “a very bright and talented man. ” The admiration is mutual. “I think that I would probably get along with him very well,” Trump said. “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader.” This week an official North Korean newspaper called Trump “a wise politician and a prescient presidential candidate.” That assessment wouldn’t get printed if dictator Kim Jong-un didn’t approve.
In the U.S., white nationalist David Duke endorsed Trump, who hemmed and hawed for a while before repudiating the endorsement. More recently, a Ku Klux Klan leader in Virginia endorsed him, saying, “The reason a lot of Klan members like Donald Trump is because a lot of what he believes, we believe in.” Sports stars? Dennis Rodman favors Trump. So does Richie Incognito, the NFL lineman who became unemployable for a year-and-a-half after a bullying scandal and who NFL players once voted the league’s dirtiest player. Former pharma CEO Martin Shkreli, arguably America’s most loathed business person, has endorsed Trump even though Trump trashed him last fall when he was in the news. And the National Enquirer has thrown its weight behind the Donald.
Hillary Clinton’s list of endorsers, though far longer than Trump’s, includes fewer cringe-inducing names. Still, it includes some notable ones. Hustler magazine publisher and porn video producer Larry Flynt probably isn’t helping her as much as he’d like by supporting her. The same may be true of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, convicted tax cheat and enthusiastic bunga-bunga participant. Clinton probably won’t be trumpeting the endorsement of Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes now that government regulators are seeking to ban her for two years from owning or running a blood testing lab. Ditto the endorsement of former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee who lost in a massive landslide to George H.W. Bush.
On Tuesday night, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose country is starving and in an economic meltdown, endorsed “our revolutionary friend,” Bernie Sanders.
Undoubtedly this is only the beginning for Trump and Clinton. With five months until the election, they’ll both receive many more such gifts, to which the only response can be, “You shouldn’t have. Really.”
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What We’re Reading Today
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United Continental and Delta set path for Avianca
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New Petrobras CEO’s plan: cut debt
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Tribune Publishing’s board vote could encourage Gannett
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Building a Better Leader
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The upside of being demoted
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To survive your first year as an entrepreneur…
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Hillary hints at economic attacks on Trump
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Paul Ryan backs Trump
After declining for a month to back the likely GOP nominee, House Speaker Ryan said he and Trump have enough in common for his vote, a valuable vow of support for Trump. Ryan also said he would still speak his mind when he disagrees with Trump. Democrats used the announcement as grounds for attributing anything Trump says to the entire GOP. CNN
Fed implies banks need more reserves
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Up or Out
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Former PepsiCo CEO Roger Enrico died yesterday. He was 71. Reuters
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Walmart is planning a massive makeover of its supermarkets
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The most admired CEO is no longer Tim Cook
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