“You may get endorsed by a member of Congress who is just trying to be helpful in competitive races,” Nevins says. “But their grassroots networks in their own state or community might not get involved. As a candidate, you need to be aware of what’s reasonable.”
3. Time: Whether it’s asking for a few minutes to record a robocall or asking for a few hours to appear at a fundraiser, the most important ask you can make of your endorser is time. If an endorser has committed to publicly supporting you, push them on the amount of time they are willing to commit to your effort.
“Hopefully, they’ll commit time for statewide tours or campaigns or make fundraising calls on your behalf,” says Nevins, emphasizing the importance of making that ask right up front. “Don’t just show up at a press conference to announce the endorsement.”
Kapolczynski warns candidates to act quickly when asking for those time-related favors. Requesting TV or radio appearances, while completely reasonable, requires a decent chunk of your endorser’s time, so don’t take their schedule for granted. Gary Nordlinger, president of consulting firm Nordlinger Associates, says the amount of time an endorser gives to be an active supporter is crucial in a world of unenthusiastic endorsers.
“There’s a real difference between saying, ‘I support this person’ and actively acting on that person’s behalf,” Nordlinger says. Don’t underestimate the impact a driven endorser may have on your behalf. “[Active endorsers] make you feel good about the decisions you’re making about voting.”
While it’s more than fair to ask for money, outreach and time from most endorsers, it’s also important to recognize that not all endorsers are equal. Celebrities, for example, will be hesitant to participate in some public events, Kapolczynski warns, and their endorsements may very well be a double-edged sword.
It could be the same with requesting your endorser at a news conference. If they’re not media savvy, or aren’t fully committed to making a strong endorsement of your campaign, the best option may be nothing more than a press release. There’s nothing worse than a news conference trumpeting a major campaign endorsement that turns into a story about a lukewarm embrace of your candidate from the endorser.
While your campaign can’t anticipate every possible distraction, don’t automatically assume that an endorsement event will be a walk in the park. Ask yourself how the supporter will handle speaking in public and answering questions at an endorsement event for your candidate. And don’t let the endorser come unprepared. No matter how important your endorser may be, if it’s your campaign putting together the event, your staff should run the show.
“I think any endorser offering support probably expects to be asked for certain things,” Nevins says. “And probably, an endorser respects a candidate who has a wish list.”