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  • Writer's pictureWill Blevins

How Effective are Endorsements?

Two months ahead of the Iowa precinct caucuses, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds endorsed GOP candidate Governor Ron DeSantis for president at a rally in Des Moines. This endorsement is unprecedented for the Iowa governor, as it is common for the governor to stay out of the race as it plays out in Iowa.

Although it is out of the ordinary in recent memory for the governor to endorse a candidate, endorsements from high level politicians and media are very common for candidates campaigning in the Hawkeye State. With that in mind, let’s travel to the past and see how some candidates fared after receiving high profile endorsements...

Looking back to 2004, Howard Dean looked like he was headed towards a win in Iowa, according to many media sources. He gained the endorsements of many high-profile Democrats, including Tom Harkin (Senator-IA), Al Gore (former Vice President), as well as recent dropout Carol Moseley Braun (Senator-IL). Along with the political endorsements, Dean received many celebrity endorsements. With this diverse and wide-ranging group backing his campaign, in the media’s eyes, Dean looked like the frontrunner to win the Iowa caucuses come January. However, by the end of caucus night, Dean did not win. Nor did he come in second. Rather, the anticipated frontrunner placed in third, which significantly weakened his position in the race. This, and the infamous Dean Scream, led to the downfall of Howard Dean, and John Kerry eventually achieved the nomination.

In more recent memory, Elizabeth Warren received the endorsement of Iowa’s biggest newspaper, the Des Moines Register, in 2020. At the time she was one of the top contenders along with candidates Senator Bernie Sanders and Mayor Pete Buttigieg. However, when caucus night rolled around – and the Iowa Democratic Party released the delayed results – Warren placed third.

As we look ahead to Jan. 15 it is important to highlight the endorsements that candidates receive, but it is equally important to know that endorsements are not the end-all-be-all. Just look at the previous candidates who received important endorsements but failed to perform on caucus night.


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