2008 Primaries: Did endorsements matter?

Does everyone really want to be like Mike?

Anyone over 20 knows “Air Jordan” and at that time, it was one of the largest endorsement deals ever. But now that the primaries are over, I keep asking myself the question I’ve asked since I ran for office four years ago: Do Endorsements matter in local politics?

During my first campaign (2004), I had no “endorsements” except those from my neighbors, church, civic clubs, etc. Obviously I was HOPING the “big name” endorsements wouldn’t matter.

We saw our opposition bring out mail piece after mail piece with the names of incumbent legislators, statewide office holders, sheriffs, and Washington politicians (we later learned some of those might not have been “real endorsements” but, heck, who knows the difference nowadays?). Obviously, we came out ahead in that race and it began to sink in….does the community-voter care who’s supporting who? Could it actually backfire on the candidate touting all the “politicians” support? Or, did it even matter at all?

I don’t have time to analyze all the endorsements, etc but tonight I did ask myself how our Governor did.

You probably have read that the Governor “can count on one hand” the number of endorsements he has done in the last 15 years. This year, he needed two hands.

Off the top of my head tonight, the Governor went 6-4 with WINS for two challengers (Tom Davis, Mike Rose), three open seats (Lee Bright, Tim Scott, Steve Stringer) and one incumbent (Greg Ryberg). His LOSSES were three challengers (Ed Rumsey, Katrina Shealy, Roger Nutt) and one open seat (Scott Singer).

For a Governor that many in the state support (and, yes, I support his fiscal-conservative ideas but have opposed him on things like cigarette tax, seat belts, autism, etc.), I would have expected a better result than my Gamecocks usually do.

Of course, when I look at someone else who has wide popularity in the state and is arguably our “favorite” US Senator, Jim Demint, the results really make me wonder.

Sen. Demint endorsed an open seat (Scott Talley) and a challenger (Katrina Shealy) and lost both. If you go back to the GOP Presidential race (we both supported the same guy – Gov. Mitt Romney), he actually is 0-3 in the 2008 primaries.

How do local voters look past a recommendation from someone who is the “darling” of the state?

Simple…voters want to make up their own mind.

In local races, voters have the time and resources to get to know the candidates and issues. They don’t want “polticians” butting in. They can figure it out themselves.

That’s why I really can count on one hand the primaries I’ve lent my name to: Lt. Governor Andre Bauer and Governor Mitt Romney. In my opinion, statewide races or national races don’t allow the voters the “one-on-one” chance to get to know candidates so MAYBE an endorsement or recommendation from someone can help voters. They’re also “up ballot” races meaning I’m not really telling my community who to pick to represent us locally. I publically stay out of local races and issues (but obviously share my opinion/vote when asked).

So…you tell me (again). When voters go to the polls, do they really care about the “big names” or do they care more about the person who has worked the hardest, shares their values, and whom they feel will do the best job?