MANCHESTER, N.H. — It may be overrated, but the political endorsement race won't stop. In fact, it will only accelerate as voting in the GOP presidential contest nears.
Hoping to bolster credibility and build political muscle, Republican presidential contenders have jockeyed for months to woo governors and congressional lawmakers, state senators and county sheriffs, newspaper editorial boards and tea party activists. The game has been dominated so far by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who appears to have captured more endorsements than the rest of the field combined.
But Jeff Frost, like many Republicans in early voting states, isn't impressed. Frost, who is chairman of the Manchester Republican Committee, said New Hampshire voters don't much like being told which candidate to support.
"We're a stubborn bunch of horse traders," he said.
Indeed, candidates and voters alike suggest the impact of political endorsements is unclear at best. Any potential blowback, however, isn't enough to stop campaigns from trotting out new supporters as quickly as they can sign them up.
It didn't matter that the New Hampshire Union Leader has a spotty record of picking winners. Newt Gingrich claimed instant credibility after capturing its endorsement. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum proudly won over Iowa social conservative leader Bob Vander Plaats. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, while touring Iowa, recently dispatched his latest high-profile supporter, conservative businessman Steve Forbes, to New Hampshire.
There's also the buzz that comes with any endorsement, producing days or a few hours of positive media coverage that may inspire confidence among wavering supporters.
Republican candidate Jon Huntsman has struggled to attract big names but recently won the backing of three New Hampshire newspapers, including the capital city's Concord Monitor. His campaign blasted news of the endorsements to reporters.
But even Huntsman acknowledged their impact may be minimal come Election Day.
"It's recognition that you are a legitimate candidate and people think well of you," Huntsman said. "What it does in terms of bringing support around in real numbers that would be quantifiable, I don't have any way of measuring that. I just don't know if it matters at all at the end of the day. But anything that provides additional credibility is a good thing."