Why Some Candidates Don’t Get Endorsements

I was talking to a friend who was lamenting the Senate race in Massachusetts, where the guy running against Kerry just didn’t seem all that impressive.  It’s a real problem in states that have one party rule, since that tends to destroy both parties.  It destroys the party in power, because they no longer feel the need to please their constituents.  It destroys the opposition party, because no one worth their salt wants to run a campaign that’s guaranteed to lose.

Looking at the Massachusetts race from a gun point of view, John Kerry retains his F rating and Jeff Beatty carries an A grade, but no endorsement.  At the ANJRPC annual meeting a few weekends ago, we were addressed by a Republican candidate for Congress in New Jersey, Roland Straten.  When I say addressed, I actually mean yelled at.  This guy got up, and told us how mad he was at NRA and ANJRPC for not grading or endorsing him.  I don’t mean calmly and rationally either, you could actually tell he was visibly angry.  Well, it turns out that he has a grade from NRA.  I would suggest that if the best the New Jersey GOP can offer is someone who tries to get your support by yelling at you, that probably says a lot about why he’s not endorsed.

But NRA typically will not endorse a candidate unless their endorsement will actually help the candidate win.  There’s no way Massachusetts is electing a Republican to the Senate this year.  It’s just not going to happen, no matter who endorses him.  Roland Straten is also a sacrificial lamb.  Looking at his district, it’s most decidedly an uphill battle for any Republican, even ones who don’t have anger management issues.  But NRA doesn’t endorse in these races because the endorsement won’t help, and because it would reduce their endorsement win percentage.

All political organizations that issue endorsements are concerned about keeping the value of their endorsements high.  If you consistently endorse candidates who are lost causes, the number of elections you successfully swings drops, and along with that so does the value of your endorsement.  NRA’s endorsement win percentage is high for an issue organization.  In the 2004 election, it was 96%.  The 2006 election was rough, which dropped it to 86%.  Studies have shown that NRA’s endorsement is worth anywhere from 3 to 6 percentage points in an election, depending on the number of NRA members residing in the district.  There’s not much to be gained, either by the candidate, or by NRA, in endorsing a challenger who’s not even close.

7 thoughts on “Why Some Candidates Don’t Get Endorsements”

  1. Unfortunately, when their only reason for not endorsing someone is that “he doesn’t have a chance at winning,” especially when he’s running against a rabid anti-gunner, it gives the impression that they care more about their percentages than about getting people who support gun rights elected.

    They need to remember that getting pro-gun candidates elected is what they are supposed to be doing. They need to say “we consistently endorse pro-gun candidates,” not “we consistently endorse winning candidates.”

  2. In an ideal world, they would do that. But Washington is not an ideal world. It’s not even rational most of the time.

  3. The problem is when the voters catch on. Once that happens, that 3-6% is going to shrink – or maybe that’s what it already shrank to – because voters who listened to the NRA endorsement will consider it meaningless – a ploy to increase NRA’s influence. They’ll stop listening to the NRA on which candidates are good for gun rights, and look to other sources. Maybe like the AHSA, or other fake pro-gun groups. If that happens, things will get worse, because the incumbents will notice and stop worrying that the NRA might not endorse them in the next election.

    On the other hand, if the NRA would actually endorse candidates whether they were likely to win or not, that 3-6% could possibly go up, instead, because the endorsement would carry more weight with the voters. If that happens, the incumbents might worry more about their 2A record, because an NRA endorsement is more likely to change the election.

  4. You guys are arguing over a moot point. In the districts where there’s zero-shot of the pro-gun guy or gal winning, getting an endorsement is more likely to actually hurt them. If they running against someone who has been consistently re-elected on an anti-gun record, the voters in that district obviously aren’t voting on gun rights.

    I’m one of the gun owners who doesn’t mind if a politician doesn’t kiss ass to the issue in a flamboyant and crazy way, as long as I know that he or she personally isn’t anti-gun. If I live in a district where it may hurt, then I want them to do what it would take to actually be elected, not make me feel warm and fuzzy.

  5. “There’s no way Massachusetts is electing a Republican to the Senate this year.”

    You’re probably right, but I’ll be damned if I don’t give it the old college try!

  6. WRT to Roland Straten, NJ really is a decidedly lost cause, the NRA and anyone who’s run the data knows it.

    A politician who believes he has to berate and blame one of the smallest identifiable voting blocs in the state for his ill fortune isn’t going to be the one to lead the revolution either.

    In rough terms, my state (PA) has almost as many CCW holders as NJ has gunowners of any description.(1) My county has more FFLs than NJ has in their entire state, (2) and I would wager that my *town* has more ordinary citizen carry permits than exist in NJ at all. (3)

    The ANJRPC themselves know this; I understand that they *sat* on coffers containing 3/4 of a megabuck, allocating nothing towards preventing “smart guns” from passing, know that it’d be a complete waste.

    (1) PA has a CCW rate of about 7%, of 12 million = 840k. NJ has a gunowner rate of 12% of 8 million = 960k.

    (2) I saw a figure of roughly 800 FFLs for NJ in 2004

    (3) The figure in 2001 was around 600 NJ carry permits. This excluded LEO and retired LEOs permits, which exist under separate statute, but included work related for armored car crew & etc. My town = 17k people * .07 = 1190 CCW.

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