When a non-endorsement is news

The Culinary is officially Switzerland, but like one of those watches, timing is everything.

Kurtis Lee of the Los Angeles Times reported (scroll down) Tuesday that the Culinary will not endorse in the Feb. 20 caucus, echoing what Politico's Annie Karni reported a few weeks ago. The union, which also happens to be THE Hispanic turnout machine in the state, has long signaled it would play hard to get this cycle and would probably not endorse before the caucus.

The news exactly one month before the caucus is that the Culinary’s executive board this week finally made official what has been understood by the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigns for weeks, if not months, by taking a vote. The Culinary will not endorse right now, as it did a few weeks before the caucus in ’08.

Indeed, the ’08 hangover, when the Culinary embraced Barack Obama and the Clintons went ballistic (Bill even called then-MGM Chairman Kirk Kerkorian to complain about casino caucus sites), appears not to have healed. There is bad blood there, made worse by Clinton beating the Culinary in the caucus (but then losing the delegate fight).

It’s a tough spot for the union, whose wallflower act already has paid dividends with Clinton dancing toward the Culinary on the Obamacare excise tax. If it endorses now, with the race so up in the air, the union risks relevancy and, perhaps, embarrassment again. If it doesn’t endorse, though, the Culinary could still have an impact later on. The union still has the troops to make the difference down the road and its leaders may think there is no upside in endorsing now, thus having maximum leverage later.

I still think the Culinary goes with Clinton in the end. But when is the end?

Clinton still has to be favored in Nevada, too, although her campaign should be nervous about the same-day registration rule giving Sanders an advantage. She simply has the embedded infrastructure and Nevada-savvy operatives Sanders does not.

What will be fascinating to watch is the immense pressure (it has probably already strated) that comes down on the Culinary from the Democratic powers-that-be after Iowa and New Hampshire for the Culinary to endorse, especially if Sanders wins both of them. Could the Latino-heavy (more than half) union make the difference in a close caucus and save Clinton in that scenario?

You can be sure the Clintons, who lambasted the Culinary eight years ago, will think so.