Do endorsements really matter? The long answer is heck, no. The short answer is no. As hyped up as they always are, and as sought after, as they always become endorsements really have no significant impact on national elections. Rather, they have become perfunctory motions that public office seekers solicit to try to create a sense of momentum for a campaign.
There was an era in national politics when endorsements did matter. During the 1960 presidential campaign when Southern Democrats where still very skeptical of a Yankee from up north named John F. Kennedy, an endorsement from Lyndon Johnson, then the Senate majority leader, a senator from Texas, and a leading voice within the Democratic party meant something. So much so that John F. Kennedy placed him on the national ticket and enthusiastically had him campaign in southern states such as Texas, Alabama, Virginia and Mississippi that where critical to Kennedy’s quest for the White House.
Since the 1960 election, I can think of only one endorsement for national office that has really made a significant political difference. In other words, the endorsement of one person actually made the difference in the outcome of a general election. The only one that I can think of in recent memory — possibly could be the endorsement that then Senator Barack Obama received from Senator Ted Kennedy in the Democratic primary against Hillary Clinton. Kennedy’s endorsement gave cover for many in the democratic establishment who were enamored by Obama’s message of hope and change and were equally attracted to his appeal to younger voters. By the way, that was in a primary, and Obama was all on his own for the general, which he won in a resounding victory — but back to general elections — endorsements from established public officials in this modern age mean nothing.
I’ve researched the political history books going as far back as 1976 and I cannot find one endorsement from a public official that actually determined the political outcome for anyone who was running on the national ticket in a general election. So accepting this reality is the main reason why I find it so amusing when people publicly announce a lack of enthusiasm or a “luke warm” endorsement that Governor Romney or President Obama may or may not receive.
The latest endorsement comes from former Senator Rick Santorum who endorsed Romney after a 90-minute meeting: “I think if an endorsement comes it’ll have more weight and will be more helpful to Mitt Romney if indeed that happens,” John Brabender, chief political advisor to Santorum, said before the endorsement announcement. I do not agree with this, as I can assure you that the voters who came out and supported Rick Santorum in the GOP primaries are almost certainly not going to support Barack Obama. In other words, regardless of the Santorum endorsement, that wing of the party will vote for whichever Republican was at the top of the ticket. They’re issue voters who most likely are pro-life, and strongly conservative. Barack Obama is assured that he will not be receiving their support under any circumstances.
In closing, endorsements are an inside the beltway game that pumps up the chest of the person giving the endorsement and the person receiving it. Voters across this county are plenty smart and need no influence from a third party. It’s a safe assumption that the endorsement game will continue throughout this and other election cycles, and it’s also a safe assumption that many will simply ignore these announcements and make up their own minds, in their own way. As the way it should be.