How much do those political endorsements matter?

How much do those political endorsements matter? »Play Video
This still image from Jefferson Smith's television ad that first aired last Thursday contains the endorsements of the Portland Firefighters Association and the Portland Police Association. When both those organizations pulled their endorsements, Smith's campaign took the endorsements off the screen.

PORTLAND, Ore. - It's been a tough last five days for Portland mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith. He's now lost three major endorsements: the Portland firefighter and police unions and the Mother PAC, which promotes family issues.

One question that has come up is why the groups didn't do a better job looking into Smith's background before giving their endorsements. But digging into a candidate's personal history isn’t how the endorsement process works.

"When you lose an endorsement very late in the game, it's a very bad sign for your candidacy," said Portland State University political science professor Ron Tammen. "Organizations give endorsements only after a due diligence about their candidates, and then they stick by those endorsements."

He said the "due diligence" behind endorsements is based on face to face interviews with candidates about policy alone. Voters should not be surprised the police union or other groups didn't know about Smith's history of driving seven times with his license suspended until it was uncovered by The Oregonian, or the incident when Smith punched a woman while in college in 1993.

A look at Smith's history in the court system via computer only shows things like an "improperly executed right turn," some speeding tickets and only one driving while suspended – finding the other six requires much more digging.

"They (the organizations) don't have the time and resources to do it," said Tammen. "It takes a lot of time to dig into somebody's past, and those things should be done by the political parties and other outside organizations."

Tammen said endorsements matter to voters when the endorsements are pulled late in the game.

Last Thursday, Smith's campaign released its newest television advertisement. It contained the endorsements from the firefighter and police unions as well as the one from Mother PAC printed on the screen. But that same day, the unions pulled their endorsements followed by Mother PAC. Now the same ads have the endorsements wiped off the screen.