Republicans John McCain and Mitt Romney, the most active 2008 presidential contenders in Arizona so far, have been securing endorsements in a high-profile name game.
In politics, candidates are known by the people with whom they associate, said Bob Grossfeld, president of The Media Guys, a political consulting firm based in Scottsdale.
“What they’re doing is trying to build a sense of who’s got the most support, who’s the leader, who’s the one that most people are going with,” Grossfeld said.
The strategy can pay dividends because it can attract a fair number of voters and financial supporters who simply get caught up in the momentum, he said. Many voters align themselves with a particular candidate without first examining the details of the candidate’s political record, he said.
McCain and Romney have been working to show that a number of people already are with them.
On Friday, McCain announced fellow Arizona senator, Jon Kyl, will serve as his campaign chairman.
Five days later, he announced a 128-member state finance team that’s a virtual who’s who of Arizona’s political and business leaders.
The list includes political figures Matt Salmon and Fife Symington; lobbyists Joe Abate, Stan Barnes and Steve Betts; business executives Eddie Basha, Ira Fulton, Steve Hilton, Doug Parker, Jerry Moyes and Bill Post; sports executives Michael Bidwill, Jerry Colangelo, Rich Dozer, Jeff Moorad and Jeff Shumway; and attorneys Paul Charlton, Mike Kennedy, Richard Mallery and Grant Woods; among others, many others.
Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, on Wednesday announced Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will serve as honorary chairman of his Arizona campaign. Romney also named publicist Jason Rose as his state director.
The East Coast lawmaker also proved he has made inroads in McCain’s home state by adding several people to his state finance steering committee, including political figures Ernie Baird and Scott Bundgaard, and business executives Paul Walsh and Don Cogman. They join attorneys Paul Gilbert and Harry Cavanagh, business executives Lee Hanley and Wil Cardon, and lobbyist Kevin DeMenna, plus others.
The name game is especially important during the early months of a campaign because it influences potential campaign volunteers, Grossfeld said. After all, everyone loves a winner.
A long list of supporters demonstrates “elect-ablity,” Grossfeld said. “The first questions are going to be: Can they raise money? Are they going to be in it for the long haul?”
Endorsements account for a good deal of perception and momentum, he said. Potential campaign workers are far more likely to sign on with candidates whom they believe to have the best chances, he said.
With a limited pool of potential campaign workers available in any geographic region, candidates who fail to show they’re credible could find it difficult to even assemble a team, said David Schwartz, a principal at Goodman Schwartz Public Affairs, a Phoenix-based government and political consulting firm.
Political campaigns involved a fair amount of gamesmanship.
“It’s Leverage 101. It shows you’re dealing from a position of strength if you can say, ‘I’ve already tied up all the local mayors,’ or ‘I’ve already tied up all the legislators,’ ” Schwartz said.
The underlying message is that candidates without long lists of names probably shouldn’t even bother trying to run. “I don’t think they’d like to admit that, but I do think there’s some of that,” he said.