Winning the “money race” has always been a significant determinant in every political race but next in importance is the endorsement of those who control or influence large numbers of voters. Several years ago, on a flight from Washington D.C. back to L.A. I had the pleasure of sitting next to a woman who was the second in command at a very large Union. It was one of the most entertaining conversations I have ever had on a long flight, and one thing I will always remember was her stories regarding politicians seeking funds and endorsements from her Union. “Groveling” is probably a more appropriate term than “begging” but whichever term you choose, she told me that most politicians were spending more than half their time raising money for the next election and/or offering their loyalty for an endorsement.
In my last “post” I expressed my hope that the continuing evolution of Social Media will lessen the impact of money in our elections but there is another change coming, thanks to Social Media, which may not be as positive. We have developed a culture of “Celebrity Worship” in our country and although celebrity endorsements have been around, there was no Social Media connecting the celebrity with his or her fans. Social Media creates a much more personal and intimate relationship that may be a lot more powerful. Katy Perry has over 70 million followers, LeBron James 23 million, Justin Beiber 64 million, etc., etc. Presidential candidates can only dream of such celebrity status. Hillary Clinton has 1.7 million followers while on the Republican side, much to my surprise; Donald Trump has over 2 million. (Trump’s numbers probably have nothing to do with his recently announced bid for the White House.)
Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of Barack Obama in 2008 is widely believed to have made the difference in his victory over Hillary Clinton. At that time, many believed Oprah was the most powerful woman in America. Basketball fans saw a simple Justin Bieber “tweet” put Kyle Lowry in the NBA All-Star Game.
Rightly or wrongly, celebrities have enormous marketing power. Next year they may not be selling just shoes and cologne, they may be selling us politicians. We may even see those candidates with the most money lose to those with the best Celebrity Endorsements. The Media and all the political consultants may not like it, but the Social Media changes are coming.