Gov. Nikki Haley’s endorsement of Marco Rubio on Wednesday could give the Florida senator’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination a significant boost — and not just in our state. South Carolinians voting in Saturday’s Republican primary should give fair consideration to Gov. Haley’s reasoning for her choice — just as they should consider other endorsements by state and local leaders.
But ultimately, the most important recommendation our state will produce in the 2016 White House race will come from the people who vote in the GOP contest on Saturday or in the Feb. 27 Democratic primary.
The wide range of official endorsements shows that both races are fluid at this early stage.
As Washington Post analyst Jennifer Rubin points out on our Commentary page today, the S.C. results could have a major impact on the GOP race.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won the Republican Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1, with front-runner Donald Trump second and Sen. Rubio a surprisingly strong third.
Then Mr. Trump won the Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary by nearly 20 percentage points, with Ohio Gov. John Kasich second.
Meanwhile, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton barely defeated Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (or was it a tie?) in Iowa. Then Sen. Sanders routed her in New Hampshire.
It’s highly likely that there are even more surprises to come in what have been, so far, remarkably unpredictable presidential competitions in both parties.
After all, Mr. Trump’s rise to the top of the GOP polls, and his staying power there, defy conventional political wisdom.
And Sen. Sanders is waging a much stronger challenge to Mrs. Clinton, who had long been the presumptive Democratic nominee, than the experts expected.
So with both races heading for potentially high-stakes showdowns in the Palmetto State, S.C. voters could produce major momentum shifts.
Yes, Sen. Rubio might be on the positive side of such a trend thanks in part to Gov. Haley’s endorsement. He also enjoys the backing of Sen. Tim Scott, another popular politician in our state, and of 4th District Rep. Trey Gowdy.
But Sen. Lindsey Graham is backing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. And 3rd District Rep. Jeff Duncan has endorsed Sen. Cruz.
Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster has endorsed and campaigned for — but why? — that often offensive braggart, Mr. Trump.
Numerous state lawmakers also have endorsed White House candidates. Some black legislators, including Charleston Rep. Wendell Gilliard, are backing Sen. Sanders despite Mrs. Clinton’s supposed lock on the African-American vote.
However, 6th District Rep. James Clyburn, our state’s only Democratic federal lawmaker, hasn’t endorsed in his party’s presidential race yet.
While endorsements and the explanations given for them can be instructive and even persuasive, they won’t actually decide who gains — or loses — ground in the S.C. presidential primaries. The collective choice of South Carolina voters will.
Those who do well here will win endorsements of more lasting impact than those delivered by politicians.
And your turn to make an endorsement is coming soon.