Let’s begin with the obvious: Baker can’t endorse Jamie Bennett. Despite the fact that Bennett is the closest Baker has to a political heir, he just cannot waste his endorsement on Bennett. (What a shame, because if all had gone well, Bennett could have won had Bennett endorsed him.)
Also, Rick Baker isn’t going to endorse Kathleen Ford, although that’s what I think Baker’s endorsement is going to be all about. Now that the poll results indicate Ford to be a genuine threat to succeed (I use that word loosely) Baker, Hizzoner is going to have to get off the sidelines.
His endorsement is as much about opposing Ford as it is about supporting someone else.
That’s why Baker cannot endorse Deveron Gibbons. If Baker endorses Gibbons, that all but shuts down Bill Foster (who I hear is still having fundraising issues) and moves the general election closer to a Gibbons vs. Ford run-off.
As much as Gibbons dreams of facing off against Ford, she will not be easy to beat. In fact, I’d take Kathleen in an upset. Deveron is already having trouble making progress with the average white voter. And he won’t get anywhere with Democrats, progressives, or angry voters west of 34th Street.
In other words, Foster beats Deveron who beats Kathleen. But Foster doesn’t make the primary to beat Deveron or Kathleen if Baker legitimizes Gibbons’ campaign with an endorsement.
There’s also another scenario to game out: what if Baker were to endorse Scott Wagman, in a Nixon goes to China moment. If Baker looks past their ideological differences, maybe he’ll find a kindred soul: a technocratic executive viewed as an insider to the outsiders and an outsider to the insiders. Wasn’t that what many thought of Baker before he was elected?
Baker’s endorsement of Wagman would be a complete game changer and in a way that might appeal to Baker. Think it out for a second: if Baker endorses Gibbons, Baker gains really nothing. Everyone that supports Gibbons already supports Baker. Same goes for Bill Foster, except for the reason I explained above.
But if Baker were to endorse Wagman, that would signal to several voting blocs — the downtown boys, like Charlie Harris and John Long, city employees loyal to Baker, some elements of the police department — that it was OK to vote for Wagman. This could be just enough of a push for Wagman to get past two of his other opponents and make the general election.
Of course, Baker’s endorsement is what it is. Let’s not forget that Baker recently endorsed Ed Montanari over Bill Dudley, Gershom Faulkner over Wengay Newton and Earnest Williams over Darryl Rouson. You know how well that all turned out.
In fact, with that in mind, maybe Baker should just endorse Kathleen Ford.