Aside from money, the time-tested way to try to influence the outcome of an election is an old-fashioned endorsement.
U.S. Rep. John Tierney and Richard Tisei have gotten their share this election and most have been unsurprising.
Tierney has received support from the entire Massachusetts delegation of U.S. House members — all Democrats — as well as the mayors in Beverly, Salem, Peabody, Amesbury and Newburyport — all Democrats, except Bill Scanlon of Beverly, an independent.
Tisei has received endorsements from former Republican governors Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci, as well as Paul Casey, a former Democratic state representative from Winchester, who also endorsed Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown.
Tierney has a slew of unions behind him in addition to environmental groups (The Sierra Club), The National Organization for Women, the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, The Humane Society and several left-leaning groups.
Tisei has received backing from business groups, including the right-of-center U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business.
Perhaps more interestingly, Tisei has broad support from area newspapers, receiving 22 endorsements, including from The Daily News, while Tierney got the nod from only three publications — The Gloucester Times, The Boston Phoenix and the Rainbow Times in Boston.
But does any of this really make any difference?
“Endorsements absolutely do matter,” said Rob Brown, a professor of communications at Salem State University. “There’s something called the third-party principle: It’s not what you say about yourself, it’s what a credible third-party person says about you that matters.”
Endorsements aren’t all created equal, however. Context is everything, Brown said.
“It depends on the situation and what people’s common sense tells them; anything against expectation will be very credible,” he said.
Democratic President Barack Obama, for instance, doesn’t get much of a boost when former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gives him her endorsement. However, when Republican star, New Jersey Republican Chris Christie, praised Obama recently for his swift and decisive action in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it might very well have carried a lot of weight with independents.
In the 6th District, most of the endorsements have been of the expected variety. When U.S. Congressman Barney Frank — the most prominent gay member of Congress — endorsed Tierney, it was interesting, considering that Tisei is poised to possibly be the first openly gay Republican non-incumbent elected to Congress. But no one really thought that Frank, a staunch Democratic partisan, was going to endorse a Republican.
There is one endorsement that fits the bill of unexpected and may sway some on-the-fence voters, Brown said.
“It is surprising that The Boston Globe endorsed Tisei,” he said. “If the Boston Globe, that liberal leftist paper according to the mainstream media, comes out for a Republican, especially when Tierney is running ads comparing Tisei to Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin, that is a gigantic (endorsement).”