Do Political Endorsements Matter for the GOP Presidential Candidates? Not Likely

Washington was recently rocked when former Walker, Texas Ranger star Chuck Norris tossed his support behind Newt Gingrich days before the South Carolina primary. Okay, so maybe that is an exaggeration, but World Net Daily contributor Bob Unruh labeled Norris’ support the “endorsement most sought after by Republicans.” Mitt Romney’s campaign counter-punched when actor and star of Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 John Voight joined Romney on stage at a campaign rally. But in the midst of intense media coverage generated by the campaign season, it seems unlikely that such endorsements will have a significant and sustained impact on a candidate’s campaign success.

Questioning the efficacy of political endorsements is certainly not a new endeavor, but it is increasingly interesting to observe as candidates tailor their presidential jackets and straighten their flag pins. A veritable Republican all-star team pledged allegiance to Romney, including John McCain, Tim Pawlenty, and Chris Christie, as did the Des Moines Register, Iowa’s largest newspaper. He crossed the finish line in a surprising second place behind Rick Santorum in Iowa. New Hampshire turned out in Mitt’s favor, but the momentum was short-lived as Gingrich grabbed the blue ribbon in South Carolina days later. Endorsements have produced mixed results at best for Mitt, so it seems.

After nabbing Norris’ endorsement, Gingrich earned the tacit support of Sarah Palin, as well as her husband Todd, a handful of Congressmen (even one currently in jail), Herman Cain, and Rick Perry. Like Romney, Gingrich’s campaign has encountered a series of momentum swings seemingly unrelated to endorsements. Meanwhile, endorsements for Ron Paul have been meager, with a handful of state senators backing him, as well as the founder of the Military Bible Association James Linzey (whoever that is). 

While none of the aforementioned endorsements seemingly propelled the Republican candidates to the forefront, perhaps a higher profile person might help. When Oprah threw her favor behind Barack Obama in 2007, a Pew Research poll showed that 69 percent of respondents said it would have no impact on their vote. Meanwhile, 15 percent said it increased the likelihood they would cast their ballot for Obama, but another fifteen percent said it lessened the chance they would chant “Yes We Can.” In fact, a 2010 NC State study found that celebrity endorsements might have a long-term negative impact on campaigns, though short-term gains (i.e. increased rally attendance) are possible.

Todd Purdham writes, “As in every other aspect of politics, timing is all,” but that when all is said and done, “endorsements are all relative.” For better or worse, endorsements from politicians and celebrities can be a mixed bag.

So, as you gear up for Super Tuesday, do your best to keep this smattering of endorsements straight. Ask yourself whether or not you could be swayed to vote for someone based solely on stands on stage next to them. Chances are you will say no. As for me, nothing short of an endorsement from the chancellor of the moon can persuade me to vote for Gingrich.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Todd Ruffner

Currently working at a DC-based nonprofit that focuses on US policy toward the Middle East and democratic movements within the region. I am also a recent graduate of Ohio State University's Near Eastern and Languages Master's Program and am particularly interested in democracy development throughout the Middle East. I conducted my Master's research on Iran-Iraq border relations in the 20th century with a focus on Khuzestan and the Shatt al-Arab. I am also a proficient Farsi speaker and have lived in both Cairo and Damscus while completing my undergraduate studies at Elon University.

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