THE NOTE: Big Names Back Rudy, McCain

There are endorsements, major endorsements, and Major Endorsements.

Major Endorsesments -- such as those seen in the Republican field Wednesday -- qualify for capital letters, as much for who they're going to as for who they're not.

Sen. Sam Brownback's endorsement of Sen. John McCain keeps McCain in the presidential game.

In a GOP field that still lacks an establishment, consensus choice (what McCain used to be), the Arizona Republican is making his best play for reclaiming that mantle.

"The nod could provide a much-needed boost, particularly in Iowa, for the Arizona senator and one-time presumed GOP front-runner whose bid faltered and is now looking for a comeback," the AP's Liz Sidoti writes.

Sometimes offense is defense: The fact that McCain kept this endorsement from going to former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, R-N.Y., is huge for him and the rest of the Republican field, who can't afford Giuliani to fully answer questions about his support for abortion rights.

But Giuliani counters with his own big get: Pat Robertson.

"Robertson's support was coveted by several of the leading Republican candidates and provides Giuliani with a major boost as the former New York City mayor seeks to convince social conservatives that, despite his positions on abortion and gay rights, he is an acceptable choice as the GOP nominee,"'s Chris Cillizza writes.

It's nearly as significant that Brownback and (particularly) Robertson aren't supporting former governor Mitt Romney.

Romney, R-Mass., had been slowly yet surely emerging as the favored choice of religious conservatives, with Paul Weyrich this week becoming the latest in a string of big names to sign on. The fact that he's oh-for-two today blunts that momentum.

The twin endorsements are also a disappointment former governor Mike Huckabee, R-Ark. (who would be the conservative choice if he seemed viable to the appropriate pooh-bahs), and former senator Fred Thompson, R-Tenn. (who once aspired to that same title, and is pitching himself as the "consistent conservative" in his first major ad push).

Elsewhere on the political landscape, it's all about change.

In Kentucky, it's a Democrat ousting a Republican governor.

In Virginia, it's Democrats wresting back control of the state Senate.

In Indianapolis, it's a Republican political newcomer overcoming a 10-1 spending advantage to beat the two-term incumbent Democrat.

Election Day 2007 should scare Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. (up for reelection next year), and Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va. (whose wife was among the losing state senators on Tuesday).

Indiana's freshman House Democrats can't be happy, either. It's easy to over-read the off-year elections (what else do we have to analyze these days?), but one obvious storyline is that the Old Dominion will be in play in 2008.

"The returns provided the sharpest evidence yet that Democratic gains in recent state elections [in Virginia] represented more than a temporary dip in Republicans' popularity," Amy Gardner writes in The Washington Post.

But more than that, the 2007 elections are going down as big victories for change.

It's the same dynamic that powered this week's extraordinary fundraising haul by Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas -- hardly a frontrunner, but the only GOP presidential candidate to be offering a vastly different direction on foreign and domestic policy.

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