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Do High Profile Endorsements Matter?

Wednesday, September 03, 2014


With less than one week remaining until the Rhode Island primary, Republican gubernatorial candidates Allan Fung and Ken Block have each announced endorsements from high-profile in-state and national GOP figures.

SLIDES:  See High Profile Endorsements in RI 2014 Election Campaign BELOW 

In a press release sent out yesterday, Block anncounced he had received an endorsement from former 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate John Robitaille and RI House Minority Leader Brian Newberry, while Fung announced that he had received the backing of 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney, 2012 Republican presidential nominee, has endorsed Allan Fung for RI Governor

"The reason these endorsements tend to come late is that quite frankly, a lot of people tend not to tune in to race until after Labor Day.  What that means is that in states like Rhode Island and Massachusetts, you basically have a one-week primary race.  If a campaign has any exciting news, they will want to convey to the public during this final week," said Dan Kennedy, Acting Director and Associate Professor at Northeastern University's School of Journalism.

High profile figures endorse candidates in 2014 RI elections 

2010 RI Republican gubernatorial nominee John Robitaille has endorsed Ken Block for RI Governor

Romney, Robitaille and Newberry are the latest in a series of high profile national figures who have thrown their support behind candidates seeking office in Rhode Island this year.    On the democratic side of the aisle, former US Congressman for Rhode Island Patrick Kennedy has endorsed Democrat Angel Taveras who is running against in General Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Clay Pell in the Democratic primary for Rhode Island Governor, and Seth Magaziner who is running against Frank Caprio in the Democratic primary for General Treasurer.   Magaziner has also received support from former US President Bill Clinton, who headlined a fundraiser for him in Providence on August 27th.   

Raimondo has received endorsements from big name politicos at both the national and statewide level.   She has been endorsed by former Rhode Island Governor Philip Noel, and three-time Rhode Island Democratic gubernatorial nominee and former State Senator Myrth York, and has also received the backing of former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel -- each of whom have hosted fundraisers on Raimondo's behalf.  

Pop singer Colbie Caillet has stumped for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Clay Pell

Pell has received support from pop siner Colbie Caillat who was in Rhode Island this past weekend to attend an event for Pell campaign volunteers.

Governor Lincoln Chafee who is not seeking reelection will not be announcing an endorsement in the gubernatorial race before the primary, according to spokesperson Faye Zuckerman.  

High profile endorsements can may lend credibility to GOP candidates this year

"If Bill Clinton endorses someone, that can make a difference because he has unusual credibility and the ability to connect with voters.  His endorsements have helped candidates across the country," said Brookings Institution vice president and director of Governance Studies, Darrell M. West.

Endorsements from high-profile Republican party figures might have a particularly high impact in this year's gubernatorial primary race, according to veteran Rhode Island pollster Victor Profughi,  as both Fung and Block have seeking to establish their GOP credentials and discredit claims that they are RINOs (Republicans in name only) among Republican primary voters.

Block, who ran for Governor on the Moderate party ticket in 2010 only joined the GOP last fall when he announced his candidacy for governor, while Fung has come under criticism from the Block campaign for being a registered Democrat and donating to Democrats David Cicilline, Gordon Fox and Harry Reid.   The Fung campaign has run advertisements linking Block to Governor Chafee, a Democrat, and President Barack Obama, who Block acknowledges voting for in 2012.

"Robitaille's endorsement of Block at this point in the race could be signicant, as Mr. Block has been struggling throughout the duration of the campaign to establish his credentials as a real Republican," said Profughi. "Similarly, Mitt Romney's endorsement will help further the legitimacy of Mayor Fung's Republican credentials."

High profile endorsements rarely impact vote 

Former US Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) has endorsed Angel Taveras for RI Governor and Seth Magaziner for General Treasurer

Generally speaking, high-profile endorsement announcements do not typically change election outcomes in a significant way, say political experts.

"High profile endorsements generally don’t make a big difference in the vote because it is hard to transfer popularity across individuals," said West.  "Most voters make up their minds on a candidate-by-candidate basis so the fact that one person is popular does not guarantee that the person he or she endorses is going to get the vote."

"I don’t think that any politician being endorsed by another politician has any impact on the outcome of the race.  Having the support of some national political figures can be helpful in raising money out of state, but I don’t think that Rahm Emanuel supporting candidate X over candidate Y is really changing any votes," said Kennedy.

Timing is everything when it comes to the potential influence of endorsements, according to Profughi.

"I would say as a general statement that endorsements by high profile individuals probably don’t help any candidate a whole lot, but that being said, with endorsements it really comes down to timing,"  said Profughi.   "As you come down to the last few days of a campaign, almost any development that can change the flow of things and dominate the news cycle is likely to have some impact.  How much of an impact that is hard to say.  I believe that the Block campaign has timed these endorsement announcements for the final week before the primary, because of its potential to sway enough votes to win on September 9th."


Related Slideshow: High Profile Endorsements in 2014 RI Election Cycle

With less than one week remaining until the Rhode Island primary, Republican gubernatorial candidates Allan Fung and Ken Block have each announced endorsements from high-profile in-state and national GOP figures -- joining an array of national political figures who have announced their support for candidates seeking office in Rhode Island this year.  See this year's highest profile candidate endorsements below.  

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John Robitaille

2010 Republican RI Gubernatorial Nominee 

Endorsement:  Republican Ken Block for RI Governor 

“Ken Block has a clear understanding of the issues affecting Rhode Islanders, and he has a credible plan to improve how the state operates.” said Robitaille.  “Ken’s experience as a job creator and problem solver has served him well in the private sector. This same experience is what we need in a governor to tackle the enormous budget, operational and service issues we face in these difficult economic times.”

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Mitt Romney

2012 Republican Presidential Nominee

Endorsement:  Republican Allan Fung for RI Governor

“Allan is a proven leader who will challenge the special interests and shake up the status quo.  As Mayor of Cranston, Allan has an impressive record of results.  He took over a financially-distressed city and turned it into a model of reform,” said Romney in a statement. “He's restructured programs, pared back where necessary and pursued efficiencies and consolidations.”

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Brian Newberry

RI House Minority Leader

Endorsement: Ken Block for RI Governor

“As the campaign has transpired it has become clear to me that Ken Block is the best person to take on the Democrats and lead the party to victory in November,” said Newberry.  “Ken has a solid plan to fix our state and I look forward to working with him at the State House.” 

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Bill Clinton

42nd President of the United States 

Endorsement:  Seth Magaziner for General Treasurer

Clinton headlined a rally for Magaziner on Aug. 27 at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence

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Patrick Kennedy

Former US Congressman (D-RI)

Endorsements:  Angel Taveras for RI Governor; Seth Magaziner for General Treasurer 

On Magaziner:  “I am proud to support Seth, because I know he is the best candidate to move Rhode Island forward,” said Congressman Kennedy. “Not only will Seth bring a steady hand to the state’s finances, he will bring new energy and fresh ideas that will put Rhode Islanders to work and make our state competitive in the 21st century economy.”

On Taveras:   “If we need a model in Rhode Island of what it is that it’s going to take for success, all we need to do is to look at the personal story of Angel Taveras,” said Kennedy. “He’s not someone who has ever had anything handed to him.”

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Michael R. Bloomberg

Former New York City Mayor

Hosted fundraiser for Democrat Gina Raimondo for RI Governor

“Gina is one of the most impressive public officials in America today in the mayor’s opinion … he really thinks she’s a superstar.” - Howard Bloomberg, Bloomberg Senior Advisor 

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Rahm Emanuel

Chicago Mayor; Former US Congressman (D-IL); Former White House Chief of Staff to President Obama

Mayor Emanuel hosted a fundraiser for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gina Raimondo in June 2013 

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Myrth York

Three-Time Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate

Endorsement:  Gina Raimondo for RI Governor 

“I am supporting Gina because she is smart, she is determined and she is incredibly hard working,” York said in a statement. “She understands the challenges and difficulties that Rhode Islanders face every day. And she knows how to bring change – positive, progressive change.”

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Colbie Caillet

Pop Singer

Attended volunteer event for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Clay Pell 


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