Unless a remarkable upset occurs, a U.S. senator will become president in 2008, for the first time since 1960.

But if presidential candidates are being judged by the company they keep, having a few senators as friends and endorsers leads, by recent example, to unfavorable outcomes.

Take Maine. Republican front-runner Sen. John McCain, despite support from Sen. Olympia Snowe and Sen. Susan Collins, was stomped in the GOP caucus by Mitt Romney, and barely stole second place from Ron Paul.

In Georgia, McCain touted the endorsements of that state’s conservative senators, Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Sen. Johnny Isakson. So Republicans there duly threw their majority support behind Mike Huckabee.

It’s a bipartisan phenomenon. Pundits gleefully dissected Sen. Hillary Clinton’s victory in Massachusetts, after the Bay State’s senators – Sen. Ted Kennedy and Sen. John Kerry – endorsed Sen. Barack Obama.

This is an interesting backdrop for this weekend, when Maine (finally!) becomes a battleground state.

On Friday, Kennedy visited Lewiston to stump for Obama, prior to the newly relevant Maine Democratic caucus. Clinton did not rely on any high-profile proxies in the Twin Cities: she spoke at the Lewiston Armory yesterday.

If an endorsement’s value is measured in credibility, voter rejection of an endorsement may mean the loss of something equally important – the confidence of voters, perhaps, or evaporating trust in the endorser.

Yet this doesn’t make sense. If we trust our senators to represent us to the nation, we should trust their opinion about who should lead the country.

We don’t think this phenomenon indicates cynicism or distrust. Rather, it’s more likely voters – the people – are seizing control of this process, and selecting candidates who mean the most to them, not their representatives.

Which is a fine example of democratic – with the little-d – principles in action.

Picking a president is a personal decision. The fact that senatorial sentiments are having little sway shows voters aren’t picking for politics. And it should mean whoever wins Maine’s Democratic caucus today isn’t the choice of politicians. The winner will be the people’s choice.

How this decision will be respected, however, amid the electioneering and super-delegating during the next several months, is another matter entirely.


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