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Pioneer Editorial: How much is endorsement really worth?

It took Attorney General Mike Hatch seven ballots over more than six hours on Saturday to win the endorsement of Min-nesota DFLers to face Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty this fall. But Hatch isn't done.

He must first hurdle past Sen. Becky Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, who also sought the DFL endorsement on Saturday but drop-ped out, saying she would challenge the eventual endorsee -- Hatch or Sen. Steve Kelley of Hopkins -- in the party's Sept. 12 primary when Minnesotans at large can vote for who they want on the general election ballot across from Pawlenty.

So what worth is there for an endorse-ment?

Hatch, in his acceptance speech Satur-day night, told delegates he wanted "to thank you for letting me come home," as he also would have gone to the Sept. 12 pri-mary had they endorsed Lourey or Kelley.

In practical terms, the party endorsement usually allows the endorsee access to campaign funding sources not otherwise available, since now the party has put its blessing on the candidate. While the Minnesota DFL Party will now help its endorsee, Hatch, others might hang onto their purse strings until after Sept. 12, preferring to invest in Pawlenty's opponent and not in an interparty fight.

So again, how much is the endorsement worth?

The Republicans, for other reasons, are no better off. Pawlenty's GOP endorsement for a second term was a cake walk, but only after party officials refused to allow Susan Jeffers to also seek endorsement. But to what good? Jeffers, who also had the Libertarian Party endorsement, has now shucked that and will actively challenge Pawlenty in the GOP primary, also Sept. 12. While a Pawlenty/Jeffers fight won't be anywhere near as deep as a Hatch/Lourey battle, the incumbent governor will have to spend some time swatting at a gnat that he'd probably rather use in preparing for his eventual DFL opponent.

After the dust clears this fall, both major parties -- as well as the Independence Part-y -- should sit down and ponder about a bet-ter way of doing things which involve more people in the decision-making process.

Rather than letting a select few -- only a third of the GOP delegates showed at their state convention this year for lack of contests -- issue endorsements from on top, perhaps the people should make a decision of who they want to carry their party's banner. But then also why not move up the primary election, say to June, and then let the major combatants at it over the summer and fall to the November election, giving the public plenty of time to learn the issues and flesh out the positions, then make an informed vote in November.

In the case of the Democrats, much time will be spent between now and September trying to parse differences between two liberals. Then comes the second battle in the eight-week rush to the finish line, where new issues and contrasts need to be made.

Unfortunately, by then, many voters have had it and become lost in the shuffle.