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Barack Obama and Sarah Palin: Whose endorsement carries the most clout with U.S. voters these days?

September 13, 2010 |  5:42 am

Democrats president Barack Obama campaigning with doomed Massachusetts party Senate candidate Martha Coakley in Dec 2009

Endorsements.

One of those evergreen political gimmicks that can consume almost as much time on a political campaign as shredding documents. Campaign staffers collect these things as if they were scalps in a 19th century war. From other politicians. From celebrities. From newspaper boards, as if anyone followed editorial page endorsements anymore.

These endorsements are then trotted out one by one in staged events designed to elicit free media attention (see photos here) on the assumption that some voters might possibly perhaps be swayed positively. Or want to get on the bandwagon.

But do they really work? TV's persuasive Billy Mays aside, has anyone ever ...

... run out to acquire a reverse mortgage because of Robert Wagner? Or phoned Wilford Brimley's favorite medical supply company because he says he likes it delivering right to his door?

Or, perhaps, have some voters even watched Barbra Streisand back one of her favorite types and then enthusiastically voted for or donated to the opponent?

Finally now, some documentation on this not terribly insignificant matter.

And the statistical results suggest that President Obama -- and others currently marauding across the American political scene -- could considerably reduce their carbon footprints simply by staying home this fall instead of flying their large air machines and driving their large SUVs all over to put their arms around someone and raise arms together in a phony, premature victory celebration for the cameras. (See above for Obama's hug-of-death moment last winter with Massachusetts' wannabe senator Martha Coakley.)Republicans Nikki Haley and Sarah Palin campaign in South Carolina

The Harris Poll has surveyed more than 2,700 Americans and finds such endorsements are at best questionable and, at worst, quite possibly counter-productive.

Results reveal that 45% of respondents would be less likely to vote for a candidate Obama recommended for election.

That's 3% more than would be swayed by his advice.

It's even worse for Sarah Palin -- only 30% would take her advice; 56% would think about it, and then probably not vote that way.

What if the "tea party" movement endorses someone? Well, Harris finds, 34% would be likely to vote that way, with 41% going the other way, and 26% not really knowing enough to say at the moment (or perhaps insufficiently trusting the pollster's promise of anonymity).

Today, ex-President Clinton, whose wife clobbered Obama in the 2008 Pennsylvania Democratic primary, will try to sprinkle some of his magic endorsement dust by campaigning with Keystone State Senate candidate Joe Sestak, who defied Obama by successfully challenging the Obama-endorsed favorite in last spring's primary.

However, because other polls show that Republican-inclined voters are far more motivated and inclined to enthusiastically vote come Nov. 2 -- and not in support of Obama's policies or endorsees -- might Palin's lower success rate actually produce more actual votes among the larger GOP turnout?

Having watched so many of these endorsements pile up and blow away over the years, it's kind of humorous to picture the president endorsing a fellow Democrat for office, causing 78% of conservatives, 82% of tea party sippers and 85% of Republicans, to say, "That's good enough for me! I'm voting for the other guy."

An Obama endorsement would cause even 47% of independents to ricochet. (From 77% to 79% of Democrats or liberals would take his word as good enough.)

Last fall, after the president campaigned for Democratic gubernatorial candidates in New Jersey and Virginia and the Democratic Senate candidate in Massachusetts, voters canned them all. Additionally, this spring Pennsylvanians rejected the endorsement by Obama and Joe "I'm Originally from Scranton but Ended Up in Delaware" Biden to oust switchover Sen. Arlen Specter in favor of Sestak.

About two-thirds of Republicans, tea party types and conservatives would take Palin's candidate advice, Harris reports. While roughly the same proportions of Dems, libs and mods would vote the other way.

Not that anyone asked for it, but Harris offers the following advice: "After looking at these two politicians and another party, candidates in tight races and in swing districts may want to hold off asking for their endorsement."

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Upper photo: Obama with Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Martha Coakley in Massachusetts. Credit: Jim Young / Reuters Lower photo: Palin with South Carolina Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley. Credit: Associated Press

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