The Politics of Endorsements: Pro-lifers in Winnipeg

By Jared Wesley on Sep 23, 2008

To accept, or not to accept.  That's the question facing Tory candidates in two of Winnipeg's closest ridings, as they ponder whether or not to accept the endorsement of a pro-life interest group (Campaign Life Coalition).

For one of them, the answer is simple.  Reports indicate Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South MP) has been a vocal proponent of pro-life causes, online if not on the campaign trail.  It would be a bigger surprise if he didn't accept the CLC's support.  How this will play out for him in this campaign is uncertain.  More on that in a moment.

The other candidate endorsed by the group -- who "wishes not to be named" -- is Winnipeg South-Centre's Trevor Kennerd.  (Recall, Kennerd is in a close race with Liberal incumbent Anita Neville.)  A CBC reporter (who also "wishes not to be named") tells me that the group was impressed by Kennerd's convictions, and offered him an endorsement to persuade him to carry those values to Ottawa.  A rookie candidate, Kennerd can be forgiven for not knowing how to handle an endorsement like this.

It's a difficult choice.  If the endorsement remains 'under the radar', it provides nothing but good news for the candidate.  He or she can reap the benefits of the group's resources and votes (in this case, the CLC has 3000 members -- enough to make a difference in some close ridings).  At the same time, the candidate avoids the stigma of being beholden to a special interest group.

Once the story breaks, however, the candidate has a choice to make.  Will the group offer more resources and votes than he/she will lose among moderates or opponents by accepting the endorsement?  It's a gamble few candidates are willing to make.  Bruinooge did.  Kennerd won't.  We'll see how it turns out.

(For those following the US campaign, recall that McCain and Obama faced difficult choices over how to handle endorsements.  Both managed to weather the storm by accepting the support, but rejecting the cause, of many fundamentalist groups.)

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