Endorsements & Bragging Rights
Monday November 30, 2015
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The big political news over the weekend was the endorsement of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie by the New Hampshire (neé Manchester) Union Leader for the Republican nomination in the primary to be held in early February 2016.
There is a pattern, with respect to endorsements, that you will observe throughout 2016. There is a tendency for most of the political class to roll its collective eyes and tell you that there is no documented case of a single voter ever having changed his or her vote because of a newspaper endorsement.
That is from the mass of political insiders who are not on the payroll of the endorsee. Those who work for the candidate that has been endorsed will hire skywriters to make sure everyone in the affected area knows that the arc of the campaign has changed; the stars have aligned; the victory is assured and to get on the bandwagon while there is still room.
They both could be correct.
Like good poll numbers, a major (or even a minor) newspaper endorsements give you bragging rights.
Chris Christie got the Union Leader endorsement. No one else did.
Donald Trump will doubtless say that the Union Leader is one short step ahead of a weekly shopper that only has enough editorial content to qualify it for the lower postal rate, and will cheerfully direct our attention to the polling.
According to RealClearPolitics.com's averages (as I write this on Sunday night), Trump is in first place in New Hampshire with 26.0 percent of the four polls listed. Marco Rubio is in second place at 12.5, followed by Carson (10.5), Cruz (9.5), Kasich (7.8), Bush (7.5), Christie (5.3), Paul and Fiorina (4.3), and the rest at one percent or less.
Do endorsements make a difference? According to a March, 2016 Forbes.com article, Michael Jordan makes about $100 million - MILLION - per year from endorsements. The magazine points out Jordan makes more every year in retirement than he "made in cumulative playing salary during 15 years lacing up his high tops for the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards."
So, Nike and the other companies paying to have Jordan's name attached to their brands obviously think so.
An endorsement like the Union Leader's over the weekend might have a bigger impact on those who did not receive it. Jeb Bush is looking for any spark, no matter how big or small, to relight Bush's campaign.
I've been in this kind of position and I can guarantee you that, notwithstanding their public statements and postures, the Bush and John Kasich campaigns dearly wanted that endorsement to show their viability in New Hampshire.
As we noted, Marco Rubio is first among the non-Trump candidates and can sustain not getting the endorsement. For their parts Ted Cruz and Ben Carson aren't New Hampshire kind of guys and probably never considered the Union Leader endorsement a reasonable possibility.
Newspapers love to make endorsements because they can pretend that they are still an influential piece of the electoral process. In some cases they are correct. A paper in rural Iowa can help whip up attendance at the local caucuses by reminding readers over and over about the importance of the effort.
If that newspaper has picked a candidate, it can have an impact on turnout for him or her in an otherwise thin list of caucus-goers.
The New Hampshire Union Leader (endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012 and John McCain in 2008) endorsement will not force anyone out of the race. Nor will an expected endorsement from the Des Moines Register (also endorsed Romney in 2012 and McCain in 2008).
The campaigns will continue to schedule events at coffee shops, high school gyms, and American Legion halls where their candidates will continue to make their cases.
Like coming in first in a poll, an endorsement might not be determinative, but it's a lot more fun as a staffer to go to the hotel bar where the national press is hanging out having gotten a major endorsement than it is having to explain why it really doesn't matter.
One result confers a "let's all move along; Nothing to see here" response.
The other confers bragging rights.
On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the Union Leader endorsement, to the Forbes.com article on Michael Jordan, and to a very good summary of what's coming up next for these candidates from the Washington Post.
Also a pretty good Mullfoto taken in Palm Desert, California last week.
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