Campaign Advertising: The Role of Radio Advertising

While during this election season we have undoubtedly seen an array of political yard signs and television advertisements, Kentucky has not been exposed to a high volume of campaign advertisements aired on the radio, thus far. When starting this blog, the only radio ad that came to mind was Secretary of State Alison Grimes’ “I have a message for President Obama” where she states her dissatisfaction with Obama’s EPA regulations that aired over the summer, and after doing research, it doesn’t look like Kentucky has been exposed to many other radio ads, at all. In this post, however, I will suggest that perhaps that is an area where Senator McConnell and Grimes should focus some of their efforts. I will answer the question of: what is the effectiveness of radio advertising in a campaign.

First, it is important to note that even with the rise of the digital age, a vast majority of Americans are still listening to AM/FM radio . Over the past ten years, the percentage of Americans listening to AM/FM radio has remained relatively unchanged (between 92% and 96% of Americans 12 and over). Interestingly, when looking at the top talk radio shows, Conservatives dominate. 24-TopTalkRadioHosts2011ComparedTo20104Below the Pew Excellence in Journalism project has taken Talkers Magazine’s listing of the top radio shows and listed only the political pundits for 2010 and 2011. Even in 2014 Conservatives are dominating the radio talk show game, with Rush Limbaugh now in first place, overall, but I chose to show this graphic because it specializes in political talk shows hosts, only. (Here you can find the 2014 listings, though not sorted)

Now that we know people are listening to the radio, we can explore the topic of radio advertising and its effectiveness. L. Marvin Overby and Jay Barth took on this task. According to their research, radio advertising differs from television advertising in one prominent way: narrowcasting. Overby and Barth explain that when it comes to television advertising, candidates are playing their ads to widespread audience. In radio advertising, however, you can narrow your audience, and cater your message for a certain demographic in particular area of the state. While you could do that with television ads, too, the difference in monetary spending for a television ad and radio ad can be substantial, and that is why, normally, television ads are played statewide, rather than regionally. Thus, at a much lesser cost, candidates can target specific audiences in specific areas of the state, and speak about issues that are most pertinent to that area, when using radio advertising as opposed to television advertising.

What does this suggest for Grimes and McConnell? It suggests that in this final sprint of the race, there is an effective way to meet a target audience without having to broadcast an advertisement statewide. Candidates have the ability to talk about single issues that affect different parts of the state, and leave out the rest, because voters take the greatest interest in issues affecting them the most. While in this past week McConnell and Grimes have each released new television ads that cost them six figures, this less expensive campaigning could be the way to reach those voters who feel like the candidates only talk about the big issues, and localize the campaign for target audiences. While I am not suggesting that they take dollars away from television advertising, because that, too, has proven to be effective for undecided voters, I am suggesting that the candidates take the time to realize the possibilities that radio advertising has to offer in a state like Kentucky.

What Does Senate Leadership Entail?

If the Republican Party takes the Senate and Mitch McConnell is elected for his seventh term as Senator, he will become the Senate Majority Leader. What will this mean for Kentucky? In other words, will it matter much for Kentucky voters if their senator is leader of the Senate, especially in these polarized times?

An academic article on leadership in the Senate states that it is a subtle and complicated matter that is incredibly difficult to understand.

First off, leadership in the Senate is highly situational, given the need to organize the Senate within the given limitations that are imposed by the Senate’s inherent structure. This structure awards leaders scarce formal institutional power. The next point the article makes about Senate leadership is that it is highly personalized and depends heavily on a senator’s personal style of leadership. Such examples of personal leadership style and the results are countless in the Senate, including famous examples such as how Robert C. Byrd (D.-WV) or Howard W. Baker (R.-TN) exerted their personal influence.

Effective performance of leadership is said to require skills of accommodation and empathy but not necessarily close personal friendships among senators. For example, Robert C. Byrd was applauded a number of times for his skills at accommodation and resolving conflict within the Senate but was also often said to be a “loner.” However, one day on the Senate floor he said, “I understand that I am not very well-liked around here anyhow. I did not get elected to be liked here. I got elected because I thought I could do a job.”

Another feature of leadership in the Senate is that it is partisan. Even though it can be said that everyone on Capitol Hill is a partisan, the leadership assumes a special structural and ideological responsibility. Post-WWII Senate leaders have tended to show higher levels of party loyalty on roll call votes than have rank-and-file members of the Senate (Patterson, 397). This might be seen as problematic but is nonetheless true.

Although Senate leaders are highly partisan, they also act as the middlemen for their respective political party. A mediating role of these leaders – that of a compromiser, negotiator, builder of partnerships – is central to the successfulness of Senate leadership.

What will a new leadership position mean if McConnell becomes Senate Majority Leader? It is hard to say. We might be able to create a parallel between this Senate leadership position and that of Eric Cantor as House Majority Leader. After careful research, we were able to determine that Cantor seemed to have lost touch with his constituency and thus no longer the best choice as a trustee representative for the 7th District of Virginia. We can speculate that something similar may occur and that a new leadership position will pull McConnell further from his constituency, but much of the position is how you decide to use it. On the other hand, McConnell could use the leadership role to institute positive change in the Senate all while promoting issues that are relevant to Kentuckians. It seems that leadership is what you make of the powers that you are allotted within the confines of Senate structure. As David Truman said, “Everyone knows something of leaders and leadership of various sorts but no one knows very much”.

Commonwealth Duel Blog authors featured on WFPL

CW Blog authors Caroline Snell and Kit Thomas were recently interviewed by Phillip Bailey for WFPL of Louisville on the impact of the “youth vote” on the Kentucky Senate race:

http://wfpl.org/post/young-voters-figure-large-alison-lundergan-grimes-game-plan

Centre College students Kit Thomas, 21, and Caroline Snell, 21, run a politics blog following the Senate race.

The pair told WFPL it is unclear how engaged their peers are about the Senate election. If those voters do show up, Grimes is likely to be the chief beneficiary of any significant turnout, Snell and Thomas said.

Thomas said Grimes received high marks among younger voters when she joined forces with Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren in support of legislation tackling student loan debt.

“That really spoke to me,” said Thomas, who a Democrat. “I think it is a pertinent issue, especially attending an expensive higher education institution. She is resonating with people our age.”

Grimes outlined a plan in June that mirrors much of Warren’s measure, such as giving students the same loan rates as the federal government gives Wall Street banks.

Snell is a Republican who intends to vote for McConnell this year. She said she opposes how the Warren plan would be paid for, but admits Grimes is doing better at appealing to voters on that issue.

“Grimes has used the ‘Degrees, Not Debt’ slogan continuously throughout her entire campaign and I think that resonates very well with younger voters,” said Snell. “She has repeatedly pointed out even (recently) that McConnell once again blocked legislation that would help student loan debt. On the surface when you put that on a poster that sounds great, or in an attack ad that resonates very well with younger voters.”

 

Dr. John T. Spence on His Kentucky Senate Race Research

The following is from an interview with Dr. John T. Spence, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Thomas More College. He has a PhD in Political Science from the University of Cincinnati with focuses in American Government and political behavior, among other things. Before joining Thomas More, Dr. Spence was a Visiting Professor of American Government at Xavier University. Dr. Spence is currently conducting research pertaining to the Senate race, a study of whether there is a bias in how the race is presented through newspaper coverage.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your project – what are you researching?

I began collecting newspaper accounts of the election for the U. S. Senate seat for Kentucky early in 2013 when the election coverage began. I am only using the Cincinnati Enquirer, the only daily newspaper in the Cincinnati metropolitan area. I am collecting articles that address issues related to the race as well as candidate specific articles. My original plan was to create a pamphlet to use in my “Campaigns and Elections” class for students to see how an election develops. After a few months however I began to realize that by using content analysis I might also be able to see if there was any bias in the information being presented, or in the way the election was being covered. My intention is to try and answer those questions through analyzing content and context. Although limited in scope, the research will add to the ongoing academic dialogue centered on the role of the mass media in a democratic society.

2. Can you give us a brief summary of how you are conducting your research concerning the Kentucky Senate race and newspaper coverage?

At this point I am concentrating on collecting all relevant articles and considering what variables I might use in applying content analysis to the information. Factors could include how often the articles come out, what issues they focus upon, how they portray each candidate, the position taken in editorial commentary, what issues are analyzed, and how poll data is presented are all aspects of the study. The Cincinnati Enquirer is generally known as a conservative and Republican newspaper despite being part of a national chain (Gannett). Content analysis may provide a deeper understanding of how the mass media frame an election if bias is uncovered. However, if bias is not discovered, then it might mean that the stereotype of the paper is not real and in fact, it might help define what balanced journalism might look like for election coverage.

3. If there is a bias in favor of McConnell, what explanations do you think would explain it? What about in favor of Grimes?

I would suspect that if bias favoring McConnell were found, it would be based upon the Senator’s long incumbency and ability to use his office for strategic opportunities in regard to gaining media coverage. To some degree I have already observed this in articles that relate his re-election bid while focusing upon a ‘ribbon-cutting’ in the region. He has also authored published editorial commentary on Kentucky’s heroin addiction problems. Grimes has had neither of these opportunities.

Any bias favoring Grimes does not have the same obvious point of reference as incumbency does for McConnell. Some might argue that gender bias could conceivably be a factor. Perhaps “incumbency fatigue” could also be a factor and influence the paper’s editorial staff to prefer a younger, fresher candidate. Without rigorous context analysis, it is unclear whether bias is present or not in the reporting and publication.

4. What kind of effect, or to what degree, do you believe a bias in local media can impact a United States Senate election?

If one believes that the mass media plays an important role in presenting relevant information for voters about candidates and elections, then the effect of bias could be significant. If voters are unsure about their capability to make informed decisions about candidates, then perhaps the editorial stance by a paper led by professionals whom voters believe spend significant time studying the election might be an important factor in influencing their candidate choice. If voters have a limited frame of reference for developing an opinion about a candidate’s character or issue stance, then the paper might be an important reference for the voter in coming to a decision on how to vote. If a paper reinforces a voter’s preconceived attitudes or opinions then the voter might not be challenged to critically consider his or her choice. Certainly the scale of the election is relevant to the impact of the paper upon an election. It seems fair to suggest that the impact of the newspaper upon an election outcome would be greater at the local level than at the state level, particularly where you have several moderately large cities with their own daily newspapers who may have divergent points of view.

5. What are a few major problems that you have with the way media portrays events? Do you think there is a way to better to portray political events in a more neutral light?

I am not sure that there is a perfect point of neutrality that a paper, or any election analyst, can find.   To some degree whether something is neutral or not is simply one’s perspective. That being said, I have been an elected official and experienced firsthand how the media portray events where I have been an active participant. I have learned that how an event is covered depends greatly upon the professional attitude and training of the reporter. For reporters who have limited experience, the coverage tends to be superficial. For reporters who are more seasoned, they tend to have a broader perspective of the community and issues. In that case the coverage is generally more expansive; the event or issue is placed within a larger perspective. Some reporters rely repeatedly upon the same people for their background material and quotes. Others are more open to divergent points of view and balance their approach.  As a result, the reporter’s perspective and thoughtfulness greatly affects the way an issue is presented and made relevant for the public.

Newspapers face all kinds of challenges today and the industry is not doing well as indicated by lower circulations generally.   The effort to attract the public’s attention to increase visibility (and thus sales) for both print and electronic media has led to what appears to be prioritizing coverage of the violent and the controversial to the detriment of focusing upon a more in-depth examination of political issues. However, my preference for better analysis and coverage may be just my idealized view of the press’s role in a democratic society.   In actuality, the press’s predilection to “lead with what bleeds” is an historical fact as is the idea that the press has biases. Regardless, newspapers continue to be an important agent of socialization for a democratic society and some of us refuse to accept that it could lose that key role.

Campaign Advertising: The Role of Television Advertisements

Last week I started a mini-series on campaign advertising, with an analysis of political yard signs. This week, I turn the focus to the role of television advertising.

It has been reported that a stunning 37,500 television ads have already run their course during this election season in Kentucky alone… and we still have around a month and a half until the election. The Center for Public Integrity found that of those 37,500 ads, 11,500 can be attributed to the support of Secretary of State Alison Grimes, while 25,900 are to the advantage of the Republican Party (this includes the ads aired while Bevin was a contender, thus, they are not solely for McConnell, but one can expect a majority to be in his favor). In fact, following Labor Day weekend, the Center for Public Integrity reported that McConnell was airing, on average, one television ad every five minutes…twice that of Grimes during the same time period. In total monetary terms, television advertising between both candidates comes out to $11.8 million. Most interestingly, citizens should be aware that outside groups are the main contributors to these ads, with approximately a 2:1 ratio of outside group sponsored ads to candidate sponsored ads. This shows that this Kentucky election is getting wide outside interest, but it is also interesting to note that while this is predicted to be the most expensive election in Kentucky’s history, currently, among other senate elections, this election ranks 5th in overall costs.

While the chart below breaks down exactly who is sponsoring television ads for each candidate, the real question we want to ask is: are television ads effective for campaigns? While in a previous post I have discussed the success of negative advertising, in this post I will not differentiate between the two. I simply will explore how television ads have been explained through political science research.

television ads

According to political science research, the effect of a single television ad is short lived. Gerber et al. explore this topic and show that while television ads do influence voter preferences, it is not a sustained decision for a voter. This then leads to research by Lawrence Brown. Brown shows that while ads can affect voters, television ads have their largest impacts on undecided voters. Brown further goes on to show that it is when the ad is seen that creates the most impact on the undecided voter, showing that the final blitz of advertising can have an effect on the voter’s preference, though the pool of undecided voters is relatively small, and thus this may not have as much of an impact as expected. Finally, Kaid et al. explain that aside from swaying voters, political advertising increases levels of political efficacy. Particularly focusing on younger citizens, their research shows that younger citizens were able to possess more knowledge after watching political ads than before, and that when isolated for gender, younger females knew more about candidates’ issues and personalities than younger males.

So, what does this mean for the Kentucky senate race? It certainly means that the 37,500 ads that have already been shown are not all Kentuckians will see in this race. Due to the fact that the effect of a television ad on voter preference is short lived may help explain why Kentuckians will see new television ads week after week. It also means that the final blitz of advertisements before the election will likely have the strongest impact. At the end of the day, however, these ads are not persuading or swaying already-decided voters all that much, but rather just further entrenching their political beliefs and giving them a stronger reason to vote on Election Day. It is for those reported 6% of Kentucky voters who are predicted to be “undecided voters” that all this effort being poured. Thankfully, however, it is helping educate us all as we learn about issues and politics in the Kentucky senate race, whether it sways our vote of not.

 

Stay in touch for my next post in this series where I will discuss the role of radio advertisements.

McConnell’s Road to Re-election Appears More Secure

With the November election drawing close, more polls are consistently showing incumbent Mitch McConnell with a comfortable lead. Early on, many Democrats considered the Senate minority leader to be vulnerable and expected a close race between McConnell and his Democratic challenger Alison Grimes, especially with McConnell’s approval and favorability ratings so low. The numbers below have been taken from pollster.com to show the latest polls favoring a McConnell victory.

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 4.33.09 PM

The New York Times published an article on Monday explaining McConnell’s clear advantage in his Senate race.

Taking the average of every survey over the last month, McConnell is leading by 5 points. The Upshot’s Senate election forecasting model, Leo, now gives McConnell a 93 percent chance of winning re-election on November 4th. This prediction comes not only because of his polling advantage but also because the fundamentals of the race seem to point to a McConnell victory.

As we discussed in an earlier post, incumbent defeats are highly unprecedented. The NYT article reports that no incumbent senator representing the opposing party of the White House has lost re-election in a state that leans as strongly against the incumbent president’s party as Kentucky does. Beyond the fact that McConnell has incumbency to his advantage, his own electoral history gives reason to be doubtful of a loss at this point. In 2008, McConnell easily won re-election under difficult conditions. 2008 was a far worse year for the Republican Party and McConnell’s favorability ratings were in the low 40s, as they are now.

These are not the only reasons that McConnell is at an advantage; the NYT report also argues that coal country in Kentucky will likely play a very important role.

This stretch of country in eastern Kentucky was one of the nation’s most reliably Democratic areas in the 20th century. When Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter were elected president, it was by winning these “coal country” counties. Since Clinton however, Democrats have fared far worse. This is because of the national Democratic Party’s support for environmental regulations on coal-fired power plants that are popular in eastern Kentucky.

Unlike other states, there are not many places in Kentucky where Democrats are making gains to counteract their losses. In fact, Democrats are generally suffering losses across the entire state and the president’s approval rating is certainly not helping matters.

This is not to say that something will not happen to change the tide between now and Election Day. At this point, however, McConnell’s path to victory looks increasingly clear.

Campaign Advertising: The Effectiveness of Partisan Yard Signs

 

Senator Mitch McConnell and Secretary of State Alison Grimes have put their campaigns to the test as this “final third” of the election season begins. Whether it is through print media, television commercials, radio ads, or digital media, campaigns have to assess where to spend the most time and money in terms of advertising. While we have seen that both candidates can raise money to finance such extravagant campaigns, it is important to examine whether not the way in which they choose to spend that cash in the upcoming weeks will help determine who will take the election. This is the start of a small series where I will delve into various forms of campaign advertising approaches and evaluate each of their effectiveness according to political science research.

Today’s topic: Yard Signs. What do political yard signs do for a campaign in terms of advertising?

grimes sign

Political yard signs surface our neighborhoods and streets well before the final third of the election season starts, however, are they serving any purpose? According to political research, partisan yard signs have little to no effect on campaigns. Sean Quinn of the FiveThirtyEight blog writes, “Until yard signs sprout little legs and go to the polls on Election Day…they are just a nice little decoration.”  He goes on to explain that the people who are going to campaign offices to acquire yard signs are, in all reality, useless, because these people are going to put their yard signs on display, and then think that qualifies as enough participation, rather than go and canvass the streets. Todd Makse and Anand Sokhey agree with Quinn.10264652_728174713871708_8147109962527504615_n Their research shows that people are displaying their yard signs as a way of participation and expression, rather than for the purpose of swaying voters and getting people to the polls—the primary issues of campaign offices—which makes partisan yard signs really nothing more than lawn décor, rather than active political participation.

Interestingly, the same narrative cannot be told for non-partisan political yard signs. According to Costas Panagopoulos of Harvard University, non-partisan get-out-the-vote yard signs do have an impact on voters and campaigns. Panagopoulos’ experiment tested 14 pairs of similar polling sites in New York, with one of each pair having get-out-the-vote non-partisan yard signs displayed the day before the election, and the other being left the same as a control variable. In the end, Panagopoulos came up with  conclusive evidence that the get-out-the-vote yard signs did increase voter turnout in the sites where the non-partisan signs were displayed, as compared to turnout numbers in the control sites.

What can we learn from this? Partisan yard signs are for the benefit of the individual, not the party or campaign. While in theory this seems like it would be a great use of resources due to the fact that this is 24/7, basically free, advertising, in reality, it sways very few, if any, voters. Thus, campaigns might consider spending minimal time and resources on these yard signs, and instead put effort somewhere else where the potential payoff may be higher.

ISIS: An Alarming Threat that Could Affect Midterm Elections

With the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria, I found myself wondering what the Senate minority leader had to say about this foreign affairs crisis. ISIS has now beheaded two American journalists and is continuing their threats by vowing to “not stop until we quench our thirst for your blood”.

Mitch McConnell said Congress is anxious to see what plan the president will propose. “My guess is it will require some kind of authorization from us, maybe some kind of funding, and I think if it’s a credible plan to go after these killers, he’s very likely to be supported on a bipartisan basis,” said McConnell. He further states, “I approve of what he is doing so far…and I hope he will do a lot more.”

McConnell’s support of Obama is unprecedented in the sense that he very rarely publicly supports the president on any matter, especially foreign affairs. However, this support for the president in times of crisis is a familiar concept in political science that is referred to as the “Rally ‘Round The Flag” effect. This increased support for the president in the short-term comes in response to periods of international crisis or war. Might this syndrome also affect Congressional leaders, especially those who have long-held their seat in the Congress?

It is difficult to find information regarding whether or not there is also an increased level of support in response to foreign affairs crises among all political elites, such as United States Senators. It is possible, though, that McConnell may be given a slight advantage with the recent crises abroad. McConnell has enjoyed a long tenure in the Senate and has thus moved his way up in the ranks to Senate minority leader. During this time of turmoil, will Kentucky voters be apt to remove from office one of the most powerful legislators or will voters “rally around their leaders” in hopes of a plan being drawn to deal with the terrorists? We may not know how much of an effect these problems in the Middle East will have on Election Day in Kentucky but it’s logical to assume that the “Rally ‘Round The Flag” effect may cause at least some Kentucky voters to vote to keep their strong leader in the Senate. Further research, though, would be needed to confirm this.

Entertaining An Audience: The Effectiveness of Online Events and the KFB Forum

This past week Senator Mitch McConnell and Secretary of State Alison Grimes participated in the Kentucky Farm Bureau “Measure the Candidates” forum. This event, which took place in Louisville, KY at the KFB Headquarters, was strictly limited to the KFB Board of Directors, selected staff from each campaign, and selected members of the press. In addition, the forum aired only online. Whether or not the online events are effective, however, is an open question.

The event, moderated by KFB President, Mark Haney, started with each candidate giving a five minute opening statement, followed by questions from KFB Board members and then a closing statement. The questions asked ranged from international trade, to immigration, to healthcare, to environmental issues, and others, all encompassed around farm policy.

While McConnell and Grimes did agree on some issues, that was not a universal theme. For example, McConnell advocated for a piecemeal approach to immigration reform saying that is the most feasible way to get the legislation to pass, while Grimes supported a comprehensive immigration reform plan. Additionally, when the issue of healthcare approached, McConnell gave no mercy for “Obamacare” but Grimes was less tempered with the subject due to the success of Kynect in Kentucky.

While McConnell was able to speak of the legislation he passed that helped Kentucky farmers, such as the Tobacco Buyout, the higher exemption on the Estate Tax, and the passage of the Farm Bill, it seemed that Grimes came into the forum with a hard-set agenda. As a response to nearly every question asked, Grimes found a way to insert her dissatisfaction with McConnell’s attendance record at Senate agricultural committee hearings, and that under McConnell’s watch the most recent passage of the Farm Bill was delayed. McConnell responded that Grimes’ “friend and supporter, Harry Reid, must not have told her about how party leaders typically deal with committee work.” While this did not stop Grimes from continuing to interject comments concerning his attendance record, when asked by the press after the forum how many times she has missed work as Secretary of State while campaigning, Charly Norton, Grimes’ press secretary, immediately cut off the question and moved to a different reporter.

This was the first time in the Senate race that the two candidates appeared at a joint forum to discuss issues pertinent to Kentuckians. While the KFB emphasized that this was a forum (not a debate), and stated explicitly that they do not endorse political candidates, it cannot be compared to the debates we will see in the fall. McConnell arguably had nothing to gain from this forum (however, showing the KFB community that he continues to support agriculture initiatives certainly plays to his advantage) but it is a different story for Grimes. A forum such as this where the two candidates appear together gave Grimes a chance to show Kentucky that she could take on the seasoned Senator McConnell and show that she is well versed on the issues Kentuckians face, specifically agricultural issues. While it can be debated as to whether she proved herself in this forum and held her own, it certainly can be said that it did not sink her.

Of course, one interesting question we might ask is: who was watching this forum? [1] The event did not have great publicity: it took place in a cramped boardroom not open to the public, the livestream began at 2 p.m. on a Wednesday when people were at work, and it was only online, not televised… Just from the logistics, it doesn’t seem that this forum was out to help either candidate.

According to the Pew Research Center, during the 2012 presidential election season it was reported that 65% of internet-using registered voters (55% of all registered voters) “have gone online this election season to watch videos related to the election campaign or political issues.” [2] While this seems like a decent turnout when considering streaming a forum online, it must be noted that out of that 65% of internet-using registered voters, only 28% “watch live videos online of candidate speeches, press conferences, or debates.” It could be argued that 28% is quite a low proportion of the potential audience, and when you factor in that this event was for a Senate election (instead of a presidential election) and that the event was not widely publicized and took place during the work day, we may reasonably expect that the actual viewership of this event was likely much lower than 28%.

In conclusion, we may reasonably conclude that the forum likely did not hurt either candidate’s chances. While the logistics of the event were not set up to encourage a wide viewership, it must be noted that that was not the primary intention of the KFB. The KFB wanted to see how the candidates responded to agricultural issues, and seeing that both candidates accepted this invitation (while turning down several others), it is reasonable to conclude that both candidates acknowledge the importance of the rural vote in Kentucky politics.  As noted, this was the first time the two candidates appeared at the same event to discuss and interact with issues pertinent to Kentucky, and reassuringly, it is not the last time the two will appear together. This forum was just a preview of what is to come this fall with McConnell and Grimes accepting the KET invitation, where the publicity and viewership of the event will be greatly prioritized.

[FN1. It must be noted that the KFB supports this forum whenever there is a major race (gubernatorial races and congressional ), and the primary reason, once again, is not debate, but rather it is to see how high profile candidates react to issues important to KFB and its members. Therefore, the viewership of this event is not as imperative as it will be in future fall debates.]

[FN2. Even though this is for a presidential election, we can use this to estimate what may be the case for a Senate election. It should be noted that presidential elections have a much greater civic response than midterm elections.]

Elite Endorsements: Former President Bill Clinton Campaigns for Grimes

photo 3

Last week, Caroline and I attended Alison Grimes’ campaign event in Lexington at The Carrick House. There were roughly 400 in attendance at a luncheon at which former President Bill Clinton was a guest and spoke highly of Alison Grimes, his longtime friend. This friendship was forged in the 1980s when Clinton was governor of Arkansas and Jerry Lundergan, Grimes’ father, brought him up to Kentucky a number of times. When Grimes needed advice on a potential Senate run, she turned to this longtime friend who has been by her side since.

We sat with the rest of the press in attendance while other guests found their table and seat. The event began with a number of speakers. Kentucky’s Attorney General, Jack Conway, spoke followed by former governor of Kentucky, Martha Layne Collins, and finally current Kentucky governor Steve Besehar spoke. All of these speakers were touching on Mitch McConnell’s claim that it is not his job to create jobs for Kentuckians. 

An inspiring video of Grimes was projected and at the conclusion Grimes and Clinton made their entrance onto the stage to a standing ovation from the crowd. Both spoke regarding the necessity for Grimes in Washington to create jobs for Kentuckians, to get equal pay for equal work for women, to get veterans the benefits they deserve, and other promises to the potential voters in attendance. 

photo 1Grimes stated, “I’m not an empty dress. I’m not a cheerleader. I’m not a rubber stamp. One label I will proudly wear is that I am a Clinton Democrat,” to which the crowd responded very positively. Soon after, Clinton spoke of his friendship with the Lundergan family and his faith in Grimes as a candidate for the United States Senate. So how does Clinton’s stamp of approval affect Grimes’ campaign?

I earlier wrote a post discussing the effect of endorsements, and particularly the influence of elite endorsements, on a candidate’s campaign. The research we cited shows little evidence of any concrete link between an endorsement and increased voter turnout or increased turnout for a specific candidate. As I wrote earlier, though, this is not to undervalue the importance of endorsements for a candidate.

Elite endorsements, especially those coming from high-powered groups or politicians, carry more clout than do smaller organizations and less well-known individuals. For example, the larger the endorsement, such as that coming from a well-liked former president, the more benefits that might be attached such as campaign donations or manpower. The extra resources that come from these endorsements can prove to be helpful and may very well benefit a campaign. Although the existing research lacks clear evidence of a direct correlation between endorsement and voter turnout for a specific candidate, there is definitely a connection between the increased resources and the turnout for a specific candidate . Thus, while endorsements do not often directly lead to vote choices in Senate elections, they likely have an indirect effect through the additional resources that they provide to a campaign to mobilize and campaign.