The Effectiveness of Political Endorsements

By Paul Gable

Political endorsements captured the headlines last week even though the benefit they provide a candidate is very questionable.

Gov. Nikki Haley was in the Pee Dee and on the Grand Strand to promote three SC Senate candidates. Maybe it’s more accurate to say she was in the area to campaign against incumbent legislators she doesn’t like.

Haley came to the local area to attack incumbent senators Luke Rankin (District 33) and Hugh Leatherman (District 31) and promote challengers in those primary contests, Scott Pyle and Richard Skipper, respectively.

Haley’s endorsements in those two races are probably the equivalent of whistling in the wind. After all, Haley endorsed Marco Rubio all the way to distant also ran in the SC presidential primary while Donald Trump was sweeping all of South Carolina’s delegates.

Haley’s third local endorsement, candidate Reese Boyd over Rep. Stephen Goldfinch for the open Senate District 34 seat, may help a little more because Boyd is the better candidate and Goldfinch, while an incumbent House member, is unpopular in some important precincts in District 34.

Haley’s attempt to defeat incumbent legislators who don’t vote the way she wishes is sadly reminiscent of FDR in the 1938 off year Congressional elections. FDR targeted and campaigned against eight southern Democratic incumbent senators and house members who did not support most of his New Deal programs.

Only one of the targeted eight was defeated in the primaries and the Democrats lost six Senate seats and 71 House seats to Republicans in the general election. FDR’s popularity with the voters didn’t translate to candidates he endorsed or otherwise supported.

Political endorsements mean even less in a county or city race where the candidates and endorsers are better known to voters. The endorsement by ‘so and so’ state legislator for ‘such and such’ local candidate means virtually nothing to the voters.

If you understand the behind the scenes mentality that goes into this, often it is the political consultant or other activist for the candidate who calls friends, acquaintances and former clients asking to attach their names to a campaign.

Such a scenario appears to be playing out in the race for Horry County Treasurer. The campaign for Angie Jones is busily attempting to attach the names of as many local and state office holders as possible to the campaign.

I’ve spoken to several of these office holders who, during questioning, admitted to not really knowing Jones. They said they received a call from someone else in the campaign asking if it was okay that they be listed as sponsors and/or endorsers of Jones.

On the other side of the Treasurer’s race, the campaign for Jonathan Hyman has garnered the endorsements of incumbent Treasurer Roddy Dickinson and his predecessor Johnny C. Allen. Allen and Dickinson hired and/or worked with both Jones and Hyman in the Treasurer’s office and both chose to endorse Hyman.

Voters cast their ballots for candidates for all sorts of reasons but, because a politician tells you to is not a good one.




Comments are closed.