Monday, September 28, 2009

Political Guide: Volume I

With so many political races going on at the same time I thought it would be interesting to write a blog about endorsements. How they affect races, guidelines that explain endorsement behavior and other random tidbits tossed in for good measure. I consider these to be guidelines and not hard and fast rules. I have over ten years of experience watching, being involved in and studying political races and am a politician in a small city so do have some insight but be warned I could be wrong!

The first guideline I would like to lay out is that politicians endorse UP and support DOWN. What do I mean by this? Well for example let's take small town/city A they have a council, a mayor and a state rep (State Senator as well.) Generally speaking a councilor may end up endorsing a mayoral candidate and a state rep candidate. The mayoral candidate may endorse a state rep candidate. The state rep candidate will avoid endorsing anyone in the chain. So as you can see people lower on the ladder endorse those higher on the ladder but those who are higher up tend not to endorse down.

That is where the support comes in. The higher up a politician gets the more support, money and experience they have. This can be offered to those lower on the ladder in the form of supporters, money or staff members. While no official endorsement is provided the lower level candidate is able to build using the tools provided to him/her.

Once a candidate receives an endorsement they can use it in many ways. At it's most basic an endorser may be a vote but may not even live in the area where the campaign is happening. An endorser is good for a few things 1) They provide legitimacy to the candidate 2) They provide the candidate with connections to money 3) They provide the candidate with supporters/workers 4) They provide the candidate with press. Not all endorsements carry the same impact.

The affect of an endorsement on the electorate depends on a few factors. How well known is the person doing the endorsing, how is the endorser perceived by the public, how legitimate does the endorser seem, do people trust the endorser and who/what has the endorser endorsed in the past. An endorsement by the Republican Party in a Democratic stronghold may not have much sway. Newspapers can be hit or miss as they increase a candidates visibility but at times seem to endorse people for trivial reasons. The endorsement of a popular local politician with many followers is great because they can provide you with access to voters, volunteers and information. Even regular people without fancy official titles can get in on the act.

There are people in every social situation that act as connectors, if you were to draw out a diagram of how people get their information these people would be in the middle of a cluster and would be connected to other connectors. Other people trust the opinions of these people which makes their opinion very important. These are hard people to peg because sheer volume does not mean every person in their circle trusts them. A keen politician will know who is a valid connector and who just happens to appear to be one. For instance 1,000 followers on Twitter does not mean much if 950 of those people just follow that person because she followed them first. On the other hand a Twitter user with 150 legitimate followers would have more of an impact as those 150 people are following that user for their knowledge and not due to simple reciprocation. This works in the real world as well.

Loyalty plays a role in the endorsement process as well although it will only get a politician so far. Loyalty plays the biggest role in a close race with similar candidates as that could be one of the differences between candidate A and candidate B. A person who endorses someone out of sheer loyalty without sharing any political ideaologies with the candidate risks affecting the trust of others in future elections although that does not stop them from offering the support mentioned earlier in the blog.

Like I said before these are my thoughts and they are mixed in with political theory and sociological theory that stuck around in my head from my college days. I would be interested to see if other people agree with these assesments, just let me know.


After posting this blog some news was released about the Boston Mayoral election concerning the Sam Yoon endorsement of Michael Flaherty. It is not uncommon for former rivals to rejoin the race as endorsers for another candidate, especially when promised a role in the future government (This does not always mean a position, it can also equate to influence.) This happens all the time at the national level, as was seen in the last Democratic Primary for president when we saw multiple shifts in the Democratic landscape. It does seem to be an uncommon occurrence in this area especially given the fact that I do not believe Boston even has a Deputy Mayor (Yoon will be the Deputy Mayor to Flaherty if Flaherty is elected.) We are all used to seeing bumper stickers with two names on them for President and Governor, it will be interesting to see that at the Mayor level in Boston.

For disclosure purposes on the update I do not have a candidate I am supporting in the Mayors race. The two higher profile endorsements I have outstanding in the current election would be for Andrew Kenneally for At Large City Council in Boston and Michael Capuano for Senator.

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