In every election cycle, political pundits spend a lot of time talking about why endorsements are so important.
Endorsements can enhance a candidate’s image with the party faithful. They can create a sense of momentum for a campaign as Election Day nears. They can bring in contributions from political donors. At least, that’s what the political experts tell us.
But here’s the dirty little secret of politics: Endorsements don’t amount to very much anymore.
Endorsements have really become the political equivalent of fax machines, carbon paper and manual typewriters. At one time, they were an important part of the process. Now, they’ve become obsolete.
Georgia voters saw in the 2014 Senate race just how meaningless endorsements can be.
In that Republican primary, then-U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston and businessman David Perdue emerged from the first round of balloting to make it into the runoff.
Kingston was a highly regarded veteran of Congress who was known and liked by practically everybody in the Republican Party establishment. He was even hip enough to be friends with TV personality Stephen Colbert.
Perdue, a newcomer to elective politics, had the support of very few notables outside of his cousin, Sonny Perdue.
In the weeks between the primary election and the runoff, Kingston rolled out a string of endorsements from nearly every elected Republican official, along with the support of some people active in the tea party movement. It seemed like he was holding a news conference every day to announce a new endorsement.
If endorsements really had any effect on solidifying voter support, then Kingston should have demolished Perdue in the runoff and been crowned as Georgia’s junior senator.
So tell me, how is Senator Kingston doing these days?
With the primaries for president this year, we see candidates maneuver to line up impressive lists of endorsements. But you have to wonder whether all these endorsements are really having an impact.
Here in Georgia, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville was an early endorser of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. But Walker was one of the first candidates to be bounced out of the race last fall.
House Speaker David Ralston is one of the most powerful men at the state Capitol, able to kill or pass a bill simply by deciding whether he’ll call it up for a vote. If anyone’s endorsement should have an influence, it’s the endorsement of Ralston.
Ralston’s pick in the presidential race was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who didn’t survive the New Hampshire primary.
Gov. Nathan Deal is also a very powerful politician whose endorsement should be worth something. Deal initially said he would support whichever governor or former governor moved ahead in the Republican primary: Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal or Jeb Bush. With Bush dropping out of the race last weekend, all of Deal’s original choices are gone.
Bush, by the way, also was endorsed by Sonny Perdue and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. A lot of good that did him.
In the days leading up to the Republican primary in South Carolina, there was extensive media coverage of the endorsements that Marco Rubio secured from Sen. Tim Scott and Gov. Nikki Haley, two influential figures in Palmetto State politics.
Judging from the news coverage, you would have thought that the endorsements were going to push Rubio to victory.
All it got him was a second-place finish, 10 points behind primary winner Donald Trump.
Trump’s campaign doesn’t depend on getting endorsements from influential politicians. His only endorsement in Georgia from an elected official, as near as I can tell, is state Sen. Burt Jones, a second-term legislator from Jackson.
Trump doesn’t need endorsements. He’s too busy attacking opponents, posting derogatory comments on social media, and vilifying Pope Francis. So far, it seems to be working for him.
One of the next stops for the Trump campaign will be the Georgia presidential primary on March 1. He has been leading in recent polls of the state’s Republican voters and could be in position to win that primary. If that happens, he’ll have done it without a lot of endorsements.
Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report, an Internet news service at gareport.com that reports on state government and politics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.