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Welcome to the Big Top
by Christine Whitmarsh
Jun 19, 2010 | 1449 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Money and politics have been sharing a bed together since the first politician denied that he would be running for public office and then proceeded to solicit donations anyway. Political endorsements are a powerful way to bring these bed buddies even closer together. Endorsements can be game changers during the election season, and this season has the potential of turning into an endorsement circus. 

Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate GOP primary narrowed down the initial field of twelve candidates to the last Republican standing. Former Nevada State Assemblywoman Sharron Angle will face big, bad U.S. Sen. Harry Reid in the main event this November. But just like any hotly contested political race, Angle’s road to victory was neither straight nor narrow.  

As most local political junkies recall, the poll leaders throughout most of the race were Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian.

Endorsements started flying early from many directions for both of those candidates along with Angle and others in the race. Tarkanian received an endorsement from the Minutemen Project. The Susan B. Anthony List endorsed Lowden. Two endorsements, however, stood out from the rest for me. 

The first came from Reno Mayor Bob Cashell. Well actually, Cashell’s “endorsements” turned out to number around three (that we’re aware of). First he threw his hat in the ring for Reid, then, halfway through the GOP race, he decided he liked Sue Lowden better, and then he didn’t like her (calling her “suicidal Sue” because of her chicken dance), and then, once Angle won the nomination, he was a Reid man again. I found it odd that Cashell would hitch his cart to an admittedly rickety wagon (Reid) only to switch it to one of Reid’s past supporters (Lowden) and then back again. When one politician endorses another I tend to see it as a reflection of the endorser’s judgment. What does this say about Cashell’s political judgment? Is he looking for votes in his own race in all the wrong places?  

These questions of judgment and intention are not limited to politicians. The second stand-out endorsement during the GOP primary race was the Tea Party Express from California for Sharron Angle.

As I understand it, the Tea Party Express is a group of six political consultants out of Sacramento, Calif., working under the “tea party” umbrella. This seems to be a fairly easy feat since the once “fringe” tea party movement has evolved into something that appears to be part political party, part grassroots protest group and in the process, has given birth to many little tea party groups around the country. To be honest, I admire the intentions of the original movement but I honestly have no idea what the Tea Party even is at this point. 

After the Tea Party Express endorsed Angle, her funding reportedly went from $700,000 to $1.5 million in two weeks. Also, at the time of their endorsement Angle was polling at the smallest lead (of her, Tarkanian and Lowden) over Reid. 

I recently asked Tarkanian what he thought of Angle’s Tea Party Express endorsement and its potential effect on November’s election. 

“The Tea Party Express came in and made the difference in this race, and they have the responsibility for the outcome,” he said.

His comment sparked some questions in my politically curious mind. Why would the Tea Party Express endorse the candidate with the seemingly smallest chance of defeating Reid? Does a California consulting group have Nevada’s best interests in mind? Tarkanian may have a good point when he places the consequences of the Tea Party Express endorsement in their lap. 

Endorsements mean money, leverage, and power, which might as well be aphrodisiacs for many in the political world. But do those who issue endorsements really understand the consequences — for both parties? Endorsing a candidate holds more responsibility than simply supporting them. For politicians, the decision to endorse should not be taken lightly, especially if the endorsement ultimately has the chance of hurting rather than helping their own political future.  

Another prominent Republican comes to mind here — Sarah Palin. She, at least, had the good sense to resign her job as governor of Alaska before becoming a veritable endorsing machine. Others, like Cashell, might think twice before using their power of endorsement like a consumer focus group (“I like Coke… no, Pepsi… no, Coke”).

This is undeniably a critical year in U.S. politics. The races are bound to get even uglier and more heated than usual because of the high stakes. To those who choose to attach their name to a particular candidate, tread carefully. Just like in gambling there is no such thing as a sure thing and nobody can be sure how any race will turn out in November. When you endorse a candidate, make sure it’s for the right reasons. 

Christine Whitmarsh founded her writing firm Christine, Ink. in 2003 to help clients develop and communicate their personal brand and message to their target audience. She can be reached at


*Source info: Robert Hastings, Battle Born Politics:  
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Welcome to the Big Top by Christine Whitmarsh

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