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Omaha professor discusses the power of political endorsements

(PHOTO: Marlo Lundak WOWT)
Published: May. 2, 2022 at 10:38 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - During campaign and election season, it’s not uncommon to see local politicians supporting candidates who are running for other local offices.

“Finally, a governor Omaha can count on,” says Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert in a TV advertisement endorsing candidate for governor Brett Lindstrom.

“I’m voting for Jim Pillen, I hope you will too,” says Governor Pete Ricketts in an ad supporting candidate Pillen.

Endorsements of local candidates from national leaders, however, are far less common.

“The endorsement of Donald Trump is unique in American politics because former presidents don’t typically get involved in political races after they’ve left office,” says UNO Professor of Political Science Randall Adkins.

The former president endorsed candidate Herbster nearly six months ago but held a rally in Greenwood, Nebraska on Sunday, following backlash and accusations of sexual misconduct.

“I really think he’s going to do a fantastic job and if I didn’t feel that I wouldn’t be here,” Trump said about Herbster Sunday afternoon.

But how much weight do endorsements like these hold for voters? Professor Adkins says it’s unclear.

“We really don’t know the answer to that and the reason we don’t know the answer is that former presidents don’t typically endorse candidates for office, former presidential candidates sometimes do, former vice presidential candidates sometimes do but former presidents typically take a very statesman like approach and sit out of politics,” Adkins reinforces.

Adkins says there are several types of endorsements, including from celebrities, unions, organizations and companies.

Some argue that endorsements are more important to driving donations than anything else.

“Endorsements help persuade donors first of all because the donors are donating money before the voters make decisions,” he says. “Endorsements help persuade those people who help work in campaign organizations and volunteer for campaign organizations and that’s really important because you need those people.”

Adkins says lastly, endorsements help drive media attention, and can have an influence on voters.

“But you have to think of all those things together,” he says.

“People take cues from different politicians, who do they trust, some people trust the mayor of Omaha, some people trust the governor of Nebraska, other people trust the former president, and they’re all endorsing different candidates.”

In an unscientific poll on the 6 News website, more than 77% of voters said they’re not more likely to vote for a candidate because of an endorsement from another politician they also support.

On Twitter, that number was 90%, and on Facebook, it was more than 95%.

Poll numbers as of 8:00 p.m. Monday.

Although endorsements from former presidents are rare, Adkins says he isn’t surprised that Trump is getting involved in Nebraska politics.

“President Trump has been doing that in all states, so he’s taking a very very different approach, he’s trying to stay very involved in politics, unlike previous presidents and I think that’s because he’s really seriously considering running again in 2024 and if he does that, he’s going to want to have the support of a number of people that he’s helped get elected,” he says.

“And if he has those people in office return the favors for him, he’s going to be in a really good position to run for president again.”

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