Can Endorsements Help a Campaign? Can endorsements help a campaign? Hillary Clinton is in a three-way dogfight in Iowa, and John McCain is struggling to revive his campaign, which is flagging in Iowa. Both candidates were endorsed by the Des Moines Register over the weekend. In addition to the Iowa paper's endorsement, McCain got a nod Monday from Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut — the 2000 Democratic vice-presidential nominee. That endorsement might not help McCain in Iowa but could help win over independents in New Hampshire.
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Can Endorsements Help a Campaign?

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Can Endorsements Help a Campaign?

Can Endorsements Help a Campaign?

Can Endorsements Help a Campaign?

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Can endorsements help a campaign? Hillary Clinton is in a three-way dogfight in Iowa, and John McCain is struggling to revive his campaign, which is flagging in Iowa. Both candidates were endorsed by the Des Moines Register over the weekend. In addition to the Iowa paper's endorsement, McCain got a nod Monday from Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut — the 2000 Democratic vice-presidential nominee. That endorsement might not help McCain in Iowa but could help win over independents in New Hampshire.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

In addition to the Des Moines Register, John McCain also now holds a couple of other endorsements from the Boston Globe yesterday and, today, from Senator Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut independent.

With 17 days to go before the caucuses in Iowa and 22 days before the New Hampshire primary, we've brought in NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson to talk about what it all might mean.

And first, Mara, let's talk about Hillary Clinton and the Des Moines Register endorsement. What might that mean for her and what are the polls saying about how she's doing there?

MARA LIASSON: Well, first of all, it's a big boost for her at a very crucial moment. She's been losing altitude. Her campaign went from being this perfectly disciplined mistake-free juggernaut, the inevitable candidate, to making a mistake a day. There were the comments by her national co-chair Billy Shaheen about Obama's teenage drug use that she had to personally repudiate then there was the attack on Obama's kindergarten essay about wanting to be president that her campaign admits now was a dumb move, and the polls weren't looking great either. Her lead in Iowa evaporated and Obama is now ahead there by a few points in the average of polls.

In New Hampshire, she still has a lead, but nowhere near the one she had before. And in South Carolina, she's in a statistical tie with Obama, so he clearly looked like the candidate with a momentum; she looked embattled. But one thing the Clintons know how to do is take every bit of good news and leverage it, so the Des Moines Register endorsement is already on the air - in radio and television campaign ads - whether it will make the difference for her in Iowa is unclear.

BLOCK: Let's talk also about John McCain - also got the endorsement of the Des Moines Register in a state where he's not thought to be especially competitive. What might that endorsement mean for him?

LIASSON: Well, I think it will help. It was a really interesting endorsement. It was a character endorsement. As they said in the editorial, they disagreed with McCain on all sorts of issues - on abortion, same sex marriage, Iraq - but they said he was a candidate of principle; he sticks to his beliefs on immigration or climate change even in the face of opposition from his own party.

And it is ironic because, as you point out, in Iowa, John McCain has practically disappeared. He's barely campaigning there. He skipped Iowa all together four years ago. But his campaign says what they're hoping for in Iowa is to at least place in the top four, and this endorsement might help him.

I should point out that this wasn't the first endorsement McCain got. The Union Leader, which was the very conservative New Hampshire paper, several weeks ago endorsed him, and that's probably even more important because the Union Leader is an opinion maker among conservatives and Republicans of New Hampshire where the Des Moines Register doesn't really play that kind of role among Republicans in Iowa. McCain, as you said, also got the Boston Globe endorsement. The Globe has a very big New Hampshire market. So all of these endorsements, while not game changers for McCain are certainly very important boosts for a campaign that, not very long ago, was flat on its back.

BLOCK: Yeah. And another endorsement for John McCain, not from a newspaper, but from a fellow senator - the former Democrat now independent Joe Lieberman. And tellingly, that endorsement came in New Hampshire, a state John McCain won in 2000.

LIASSON: Right. And that's obviously the place where - Lieberman might be able to do him some good. Lieberman was the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 2000, and now he's an independent. He's broken with his old party on many, many issues, most prominently the Iraq War where he has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with McCain. So his endorsement might help McCain win back some of those crucial independent voters in New Hampshire that made up such a big part of McCain's win there in the 2000 Republican primary. And interestingly enough, Lieberman said today he originally had planned to wait to endorse someone after the primaries, but his old friend John McCain asked him for his support, and even more telling, no Democratic candidate asked Lieberman for his endorsement.

BLOCK: Yeah. Remind us, Mara, this - this campaign, John McCain's campaign was considered to be in deep, deep trouble not too long ago, what's happened?

LIASSON: Well, he's second in the polls in New Hampshire, but he's only single digits in Iowa; that's fifth place. He's also in fifth place in South Carolina, and I think the Republican primary has really become a game of five dimensional chess. I think McCain is hoping for a big Huckabee win in Iowa that would badly wound Romney, maybe bring Romney down from first place where he is now in New Hampshire and then maybe McCain could score another upset in New Hampshire. But then the question remains: What happens next? He might be in the same position as 2000 - doing well in New Hampshire, but with no money or organization to capitalize on it in the later states.

BLOCK: Okay. Mara, thanks so much.

LIASSON: Thank you.

BLOCK: NPR's Mara Liasson.

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Early Endorsements Not a Sure Sign of Success

Does the name Sam Yorty sound familiar?

The longtime mayor of Los Angeles ran for president in 1972 as a conservative Democrat and received the endorsement of the largest New Hampshire newspaper, the Manchester Union Leader. Not that it helped Yorty's campaign much: He finished far behind fellow Democrats Ed Muskie and George McGovern in the primary, with just six percent of the vote. Which raises the question: Do endorsements from newspapers in the early states really matter?

The 2008 presidential hopefuls have recently touted their primary and caucus endorsements. Democratic candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton (NY) received the support of The Des Moines Register, while The Boston Globe has endorsed Republican Sen. John McCain (AZ).

Here, a look at some past endorsements — and how the votes panned out:

The Des Moines Register didn't start endorsing presidential candidates until 1988, but their first endorsement bolstered the numbers of Democratic candidate Paul Simon, then a senator from Illinois. Simon finished a close second in the Iowa caucuses to Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri. The party nomination ultimately went to Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, who finished third in the caucuses.

In 1992, the Manchester Union Leader endorsed conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan over incumbent President George Bush. Buchanan lost the primary, but received a larger percentage of the vote than expected. Bush went on to lose the general election to Bill Clinton.

In 2000, The Des Moines Register endorsed former Sen. Bill Bradley (NJ) over Vice President Al Gore in the Democratic caucuses. The newspaper called Bradley's vision "compelling," with a "fundamental decency about him that would bode well for healing the festering partisan wounds." Between Gore and Bradley, the paper said, Bradley "has the better appreciation of the possibilities and the right kind of leadership to realize them." Gore trounced Bradley in the Iowa caucuses, 63 percent to 35 percent, and eventually won the party nomination.

Also in 2000, The Des Moines Register endorsed Republican George W. Bush, the governor of Texas, who went on to win both the nomination and the presidency. The paper called Bush a governor who "cultivates an open style of leadership, welcoming different points of view" and a politician who "speaks with conviction of not wanting to leave anyone behind in America."

In 2004, The Des Moines Register endorsed Democrat John Edwards, then a senator from North Carolina. The newspaper wrote that it originally dismissed Edwards because of his limited experience in public office, but changed its position given his eloquence in speaking about the needs of ordinary Americans. Edwards went on to win 32 percent of the vote in the Iowa caucus, second only to Sen. John Kerry's 38 percent — whose ticket he later joined as the candidate for vice president. They lost to President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

This month, The Des Moines Register endorsed Sen. John McCain (AZ) for the Republican nomination. It seems the editorial board's feelings toward McCain have warmed considerably since 2000, when it decried McCain's "tendency to petulance when the cameras are off, and a lone-wolf style of action that has left him without the support of colleagues who should be his biggest admirers."