I've always felt that one of the strengths of the Liberal Party was that it's a big tent party. I think it's great that over the past few years, people like Keith Martin, Scott Brison, and Bob Rae have decided to join that party. I think it's great that people like Marc Garneau and Michael Ignatieff chose to run for the Liberals. However, I think there is such a thing as subtraction by addition. Quite frankly, Buzz Hargrove's endorsement didn't do the Liberals any favours last election. And I think the party is better off without Pat O'Brien or David Kilgour, than it was with them.
This is my roundabout way of saying that I've never been very happy about David Orchard being a Liberal. And I wasn't happy to see him signing up his kool aid drinkers to Liberal memberships before July 4th.
So this brings us to Orchard's endorsement. As others have pointed out, a candidate's supporters do not necessarily reflect the views of the candidate. And every Liberal (and non-Liberal for that matter) is free to endorse whomever they want. If Carolyn Parrish decided to endorse Michael Ignatieff tomorrow, you can't really hold that against Michael.
But, at the same time, I don't think Michael Ignatieff would "welcome" her endorsement. And I don't think we'd see a quote from Michael like:
"Carolyn will play a very important role in the campaign. We didn't discuss yet which role it will take, but I'm very pleased she's coming to the team,"
Orchard's supporters are loyal and will certainly follow him to Dion. So that will mean a few extra hundred votes in Western rural ridings. But the real question is what the cost will be to Dion? Orchard demanded no less than a signed written agreement the last time he supported another candidate. There were specific policy demands. While there may be no written deal this time, I think it's naive to expect that David Orchard doesn't expect something in return. And I think this will likely leave a lot of people uneasy. As an example, here's an e-mail about Orchard I received from a well respected individual:
"Fuck, Orchard is an appalling pickup for Dion. Has Dion stopped supporting trade, or has Orchard stopped opposing it? Either way, somebody isn't looking like a man of conviction. My mild preference in this race is Dion; after this week I'd be likelier to drop him for Rae."
Obviously, Dion has done a cost-benefit analysis and feels that Orchard's support will do more good than harm. Every campaign which hopes to win is going to have to cut a deal they don't want to between now and the final ballot in Montreal. And, to be perfectly honest, as much as I dislike Orchard, I can't say I really blame Dion for this. Despite the glowing media reviews, he's desperate for first ballot support and Orchard will deliver a few delegates in Saskatchewan. But I think there is a downside to this for Dion and if I were supporting him, I certainly wouldn't sell this as anything other than what it is - a necessary evil.