Political endorsements are supposed to be game changers.
Former President Barack Obama released a list of 81 Democratic candidates who he endorsed for various offices across the country. Let’s just say no games were changed.
The former commander in chief didn’t exactly go out on a limb. Obama was willing to back candidates taking on Republicans and I guess he saw these endorsements as helping push what many expect to be a “blue wave” in November.
If there is a blue wave, it won’t be because Obama’s endorsements put candidates over the top.
He says there are more endorsements to come closer to the general election in November, but Obama’s August list is about as exciting as the guy who goes to Baskin Robbins and orders vanilla ice cream.
The former president stayed away from Republican districts in red states where his popularity numbers aren’t good. He endorsed two candidates in Texas but he didn’t try to help Beto O’Rourke in his senate race against Ted Cruz. I’m not sure if O’Rourke asked Obama to stay on the sidelines or if the former president simply decided to pass, but that seems like a missed opportunity. Even Hillary Clinton had a chance against President Donald Trump in 2016. Trump hasn’t done anything to make himself more popular in Texas than he was before he took office.
That race is pretty close and a little momentum would help a Democratic challenger against a guy who had a real shot to be the Republican nominee in 2016.
But Obama skipped it.
Another interesting snub was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the congressional upstart in New York who knocked off a Democratic incumbent in a primary.
Ocasio-Cortez is so popular nationally that Kansas Democrats had her and Bernie Sanders speak at a rally in Wichita, Kansas.
Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez are not typical political figures in Kansas — where a Koch brother actually lives within miles of the Democratic rally in a state that might just elect Kris Kobach governor. The two party leaders didn’t worry about who likes them and who doesn’t.
They didn’t twist themselves into a campaign pretzel being cautious or burn their brains up doing campaign calculus. They rode the wave of popularity to make the biggest show a democrat has in Kansas since Gov. Kathleen Sebelius invited Barack Hussein Obama to Butler Community College on Kansas Day in 2016.
That was a big deal. I was there.
Hearing Sebelius talk about Obama and hearing his stump speech, everyone in the audience had a hunch that this guy was going to whip Hillary Clinton.
It was a rally held in El Dorado — the hometown of Obama’s grandfather — not that you would ever know that if you visited. His grandmother was from a few miles down the road in Augusta.
Even after eight years in the White House, neither town is ready to lay any claim to Obama’s heritage. Kansas is one of the reddest, red states. But Sebelius didn’t make excuses in 2016. She brought him in on Kansas Day. That was outside the political box but it helped Obama beat Clinton in the Kansas caucus later in the primary.
Obama’s endorsement could carry some weight with democrats and independents who voted for him. But none of his endorsements will make a difference.
Predictable and boring don’t change the game.
Obama still has political capital but he refused to risk any of it in these 81 elections.
In his book “Relentless,” Jack Campbell says it well, “You can’t win without trying to win, but you can lose by trying not to lose.”
Obama played it safe with this round of endorsements. If he wants to help his party win, he’s going to have to take some chances and stop playing scared.
— Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.