GAVIN NEWSOM, BILL CLINTON AND THE ENDORSEMENT HIERARCHY

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San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom will benefit mightily
from the endorsement of former President Bill Clinton.

BY CHRIS CILLIZZA
The Washington Post

Former President Bill Clinton’s decision to wade in on behalf of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in the California Democratic primary is big news in the Golden State this morning.

But, how does it fit into the Fix’s endorsement hierarchy?

First, a quick primer — ranked in order from most to least impactful:

The Symbolic Endorsement: Ted Kennedy backing Barack Obama during the 2008 primaries.

The State-Specific Statewide Endorsement: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist throwing his support to John McCain just before the Sunshine State presidential primary.

The Celebrity Endorsement: Chuck Norris for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee

The Newspaper Endorsement: Des Moines Register for John Edwards in 2004.

The State-Specific Non-Statewide Endorsement: Rep. Connie Mack IV endorsing Gov. Charlie Crist’s Senate candidacy in Florida.

The Obligatory Endorsement: Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran endorsing McCain’s presidential bid in 2008.

The Pariah Endorsement: Rod Blagojevich and Roland Burris.

Clinton’s endorsement of Newsom falls somewhere between the first two categories and is, therefore, potentially powerful.

Clinton can help Newsom in ways seen and unseen to make up ground of state Attorney General Jerry Brown.

The most obvious benefit for Newsom is that Clinton is a very popular figure among Democrats — particularly Latinos — in the state, and the image of Newsom and the former president together is a powerful and appealing one to many California Democratic primary voters. Latinos are widely regarded as the swing group in the primary fight — especially since Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa decided against a much rumored gubernatorial bid earlier this year.

Less obvious, but no less important, are the deep ties that Clinton carries in the California donor community. Newsom finds himself trailing Brown badly in the chase for cash — a critical contest in a state so large and with so many media markets. Clinton is, without doubt, one of the most prolific political fundraisers in history and if he leans on his people in the state, Newsom can expect the millions to pour in over the coming months.

The simple fact is that Newsom’s campaign needed a shot of momentum as the race seemed to be settling with Brown as the clear frontrunner to Newsom’s underdog. Clinton’s endorsement doesn’t fundamentally alter that dynamic but it does strengthen Newsom where he has been weak.

The critical element in all of this, however, is how actively Clinton ultimately works for Newsom. ABC’s Teddy Davis, who broke the endorsement story, said the former President will be in California on Oct. 5 for Newsom — doing a rally in east Los Angeles as well as a high-dollar donor event.

The more Clinton does — from a public appearances and a private fundraising standpoint — the better it is for Newsom.

See Related: WORLD POLITICS

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