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How Effective Are Political Endorsements?

With the Iowa caucuses less than two weeks away, Republican candidates are stopping at nothing – including soliciting the help of past and present political heavyweights – to convince voters why they are the one to defeat President Obama next fall. But many analysts are starting to ask if these endorsements have any real impact.

All of the top GOP candidates, including Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum can lay claim to a list of endorsements.

Romney, who also sought the Republican nomination in 2008, has the longer list of political rock stars that includes New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Senator Bob Dole, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and a host of other national and state elected leaders.

Earlier this week, and in an effort to mobilize Christian voters to get behind a single candidate, noted evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats endorsed former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum; a feat that was overshadowed by his asking Michele Bachmann to quit the race just a few days prior.

Leading political analysts who have been around awhile remember when endorsements played a key role in campaigns, but now many are saying a big name may be good for headlines but brings few in any votes.

“Before the advent of mass media, voters used to pay a lot of attention to who endorsed who,” said Jim Sizemore, a retired political strategist who managed several national and state campaigns in the late 1950s and 1960s.

“I can recall when campaigns would hinge on endorsements – when deals really were made in smoked-filled rooms with just a handful of men. Those days are gone now and in my opinion it’s for the better. There’s enough information on the internet that people can do their own research and decided which candidate is best for them,” added Sizemore.

 Still, many Christians look to certain pastors and national leaders for a confirmation that certain candidates have the values and beliefs that align with their own.

Ralph Reed, the founder and chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, spent most of the 1990s as the executive director of the Christian Coalition, a group that played an important role in helping elect conservatives to federal and state office.

Does Reed think endorsements help candidates?

“It’s hard to say,” he said in an email response to The Christian Post. “I think Rick [Santorum] would probably rather have those endorsements than not. But endorsements, like the social conservative vote itself, have been fairly divided up and fractured, with prominent pastors and leaders of different organizations going in different directions.”

“That is why we at Faith and Freedom have chosen not to endorse,” added Reed. “We are making sure our members and supporters attend the caucuses and are well trained on being effective once they get there. The evangelical vote is divided not because there is no good candidate, but because there are so many good candidates and they have all made an aggressive appeal to the voters.”

But one Iowa pastor believes some endorsements can make a difference in such a tight election.

“Yes, we’ve got a bunch of choices, too many some would say,” Iowa pastor Marvin Smith told the Los Angeles Times. “Our people are excited about people like Michele Bachmann and others that are running that are unashamedly believers in Jesus Christ.”

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