Candidates seek election-season endorsements for a lot of reasons. Endorsements by groups with substantial membership bases, and with a capacity to turn out those members for favored candidates, have the obvious potential to shape election results. But there’s more to it than that. Endorsements can legitimize political upstarts. Endorsements can solidify the positions of front-runners. And endorsements can give a boost to a candidate at a critical stage in the process.
Backers of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is fighting to catch up with former secretary of state Hillary Clinton in the critical first-caucus state of Iowa, and who is fighting to maintain a narrow lead in the critical first-primary state of New Hampshire, say he got just such a boost Thursday when a pair of major endorsements were announced.
DFA, which was started by backers of former Vermont Governor Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential bid, has grown into a well-regarded grassroots political and issue-advocacy organization with active groups in states across the country and a track record of backing progressive candidates at the local, state and federal levels. Early in the 2016 race, the group urged Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren to seek the Democratic nomination. This month, it conducted a national poll of members that concluded December 15. Sanders won 87.9 percent of the 271,527 votes cast in a contest where an endorsement could only be secured with a super-majority (66.67 percent or more) of all the votes cast. Clinton (who is backed by Howard Dean) took 10.3 percent, while 1.1. percent backed Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.
The level of support for Sanders was unprecedented. When the 11-year-old group held a similar vote on whether to endorse in the 2008 presidential race, no candidate cleared the super-majority hurdle.
“This is an historic moment for DFA, for the progressive movement, for the Democratic Party, for people-powered politics—and for Bernie supporters who relentlessly rallied over nine intense days to Get Out The Vote and win this pivotal endorsement,” explained Democracy for America’s executive director Charles Chamberlain. “Bernie Sanders is an unyielding populist progressive who decisively won Democracy for America members’ first presidential primary endorsement because of his lifelong commitment to taking on income inequality and the wealthy and powerful interests who are responsible for it.”