This is the complete guide to political endorsements.
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Endorsements are an essential part of campaigning as they can add credibility, new volunteers, money, and earned media. When you’re a candidate running in a primary, you’re likely to benefit most from political endorsements as you don’t enjoy the full and often unconditional support of the Democratic party. Thus, any established organization or individual who lends their approval helps validate your candidacy.
When you’re a candidate running in a general election, endorsements are helpful. Still, they are rarely groundbreaking as you already have the blessing of the Democratic party—nonpartisan endorsements like a community leader or newspaper could help you gain undecided voters but not to the extent that prominent Democratic-leaning organizations help you as a primary candidate.
The major benefits of endorsements come from what they can provide your campaign. Your campaigns should go after endorsements only to the extent that they provide a return on investment greater than the resources and time required to chase the endorser. In this chapter, you’ll learn how to go after endorsements from individuals and organizations.
Asking for endorsements is a lot like asking for money. As a candidate, you regularly call important people with something to offer your campaign, pitching your candidacy, and make an ask. While doing so, consider the following aspects as essential to your success.
Make a list! Much like fundraising call time, you first need a list of people to call when asking for endorsements. To create your list, ask yourself why an endorsement from each person would be helpful, how you know the person, what makes you similar, why they would consider endorsing your campaign, and how likely they are to make an endorsement. The most important question is how a particular endorsement helps your campaign and the probability that they will make an endorsement. Every call you make as a candidate should provide value to your campaign—especially considering your limited time.
Build your pitch by asking yourself who you are and thinking about the endorser’s background, why they should endorse you, what you have to offer, and why you are a better choice than your opponents.
An endorsement ask is similar to fundraising ask: make the ask, pause, let them speak, and only respond when needed.
What if they say no?
You may be getting used to hearing the word “no,” as you should! You’re running for office. If it’s worth it, ask again, follow up, and ask again. You’ll know when it’s time to move on.
What if they say yes?
If they say yes—congratulations! Now the work begins. Have a plan on how to plug them into your campaign based on their time and comfort level.
When you’re running for office, your time is not only valuable but competitive. If you do X, you can’t do Y—everything is a trade-off. Fundraising call time will also take precedence over political call time. Only you can be the candidate, and you are the most influential person to ask for money. Endorsement targets can be warmed up by staff, however, as long as you make the final ask to close. As a general rule, in a primary, you should spend 80% of your call time on fundraising and 20% (if needed) on political call time.
In addition to individuals, organizations also endorse campaigns. Organizational endorsements can provide more value to your campaign than an individual if they’re well known and commit to helping your campaign in the form of fundraising, volunteer activity, or greater access to events and voters. However, organizations that endorse candidates regularly have a more involved and structured endorsement process, which will require significant investments of campaign staff time.
Organizations that endorse comprise groups of individuals whose political endorsement may not carry weight alone, but when combined can be quite valuable in lending your campaign their credibility and, in some cases, their resources. Individual endorsements are also highly beneficial, but they are often limited to an endorsement in name only. Both help your campaign and drum up significant earned media depending on the influence they carry.
Many organizations will require your campaign to fill out a questionnaire (sometimes up to 50 questions!) to detail your stances on issues that matter to them, partake in an interview (sometimes multiple), attend a candidate forum, and the list goes on. Organizational endorsement processes take a lot of time and effort, and just because they’re in your district doesn’t mean you have to respond. Your campaign should research potential endorsement targets and ranking them based on the likelihood they will endorse your campaign and how their endorsement could help your campaign (e.g., resources or importance of organization).
|Endorsement Type||Potential Help or Asks|
How do political endorsements work?
Endorsements are used to show support for a specific candidate during a political race. They’re especially helpful in drumming up support during the primaries, especially if your run for office is extremely competitive. Endorsements from influential individuals or organizations can improve your campaign’s reach, your fundraising capability, and encourage voter turnout on your behalf. Well-timed endorsements from the right people can have a powerful impact on your campaign. For example, endorsements from his political opponents significantly helped win Joe Biden the nomination for the 2020 presidential race.
How are endorsements made?
Endorsements can be made a number of ways. Individuals can make public declarations of support through press releases, interviews, or even social media. Everyday people can endorse candidates by sharing campaign ads or volunteering for doorknocking and phonebanking for the campaign. Organizations that offer endorsements tend to have a more complicated vetting process where candidate apply for the endorsement by answering questionnaires and attending interviews.
Do political endorsements matter?
Not all endorsements are created equal. Endorsements from celebrities might not carry as much weight as ones from your political party or from a well-established business in your area. Individuals and organizations that endorse you can offer a sort of mental shortcut for undecided voters, but the reputation of the endorser will matter in how influential the endorsement is. 2020’s presidential election showed that a well-timed endorsement can make all the difference.