The State’s ‘won-lost’ record

Cindi Scoppe wrote this post on The State’s editorial blog, “And Another Thing…”:

People who don’t get The State’s endorsement or who just like to be snarky love to say that our endorsement is the kiss of death. That never has been the case: Well over half of the people we endorse always have won, and it seems to me like the number is usually significantly higher, but I’m not certain and I don’t feel like trying to figure it out.

But this year’s primary elections were a dramatic example of how inaccurate the sore-losers’ claim is….

Our only loss was in the Democratic primary for education superintendent, where Montrio Belton was trounced. But we endorsed Tom Thompson in the runoff, and he won his nomination. Easily.

So for the record, that’s 7-1, or an 88 percent success rate. Hardly the kiss of death.

The beginning of that post is almost word-for-word what I have written multiple times in columns and blog posts. Except that she didn’t mention the part about endorsements not being predictions, just statements of who should win (and far more importantly, why they should win), regardless of what actually happens.

And except for this: I never did this after primaries, just after general elections. Which is why Cindi can’t cite a won-lost record over time, because the numbers I tracked were for general only. Why? Because I thought that was, a truer measure of the extent to which we were in tune with our readers overall. Also, since we were moderates and the parties were increasingly extreme, tracking primaries is a sure way to pull down your percentages.

(By the way, the record over the years I was on the board was that just under 75 percent of the candidates we endorsed won.)

But the thing about this primary season just ended is, SC voters went for the sober, moderate, experienced candidates this time, rather than the angry ideologues (one exception being the county council race where I live).

So, congrats to Cindi and Warren Bolton on their chosen candidates doing so well. But congratulations even more to South Carolina…

13 thoughts on “The State’s ‘won-lost’ record

  1. Doug Ross

    I added a comment to that article on The State:

    “How many actual votes do you think were impacted by the endorsements? Let’s see if The State can endorse an underdog and drive enough votes to win. Taking any credit for Lindsey Graham winning his primary is quite a reach. An endorsement is neither a kiss of death nor a bonus. Will The State endorse any Democrats for statewide office in November? There’s your test.”

    What I find consistently amusing is that The State opinion writers will go on and on about how things need to change in South Carolina’s state government yet will also consistently endorse what can only be called “status quo” candidates. is Henry McMaster really going to make a difference?

    As I said above, let’s see The State endorse someone who ISN’T the frontrunner to see what kind of influence it has. They will very likely endorse Sheheen. Can they deliver a victory.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      As you tend to do on this topic, Doug, you’re missing the point. Cindi is not “taking any credit for Lindsey Graham winning his primary.” She’s simply refuting the oft-stated fallacy that candidates endorsed by The State tend to lose.

      1. Doug Ross

        Where do you hear that “oft-stated fallacy”? Is there anything besides some random comments made by “low information” people to support that it occurs often?

        I’m just baffled by why a won-loss record would mean anything… the endorsements don’t influence voters to any measurable degree.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          ‘Where do you hear that “oft-stated fallacy”?’ EVERYWHERE. It is probably the most common observation that editorial page editors hear from the public, or at least well up in the top ten.

          People don’t come up to you and say that, Doug, because you are not an editorial page editor.

          It’s really interesting how regular folks, who probably would not normally immediately try to insult someone they’ve just met by attacking what they do for a living, think nothing of doing that when they meet a newspaper editor. It’s like people think that saying the things they say to their friends about the media are perfectly fine to say to an editor. The only conclusion I can draw is that they don’t think editors are actually human beings — even though they ascribe all sorts of human failings to them.

          People come out with this stuff like they’ve just been waiting their whole lives to dump it on you. Which, in many cases, I suppose they have.

          Anyway, after a few years of this nonsense, it’s hard to resist refuting the charge with facts…

          1. Doug Ross

            Are there any known people who you would regard as reasonably intelligent who have made that claim? There are plenty of wackos on the streets but that doesn’t mean you have to spend time debating them.

            Anyone who has paid attention knows The State endorses incumbents and status quo candidates for statewide office and local offices.

            Refresh my memory – did The State ever endorse an opponent of Strom Thurmond or Lindsey Graham? How about against Fritz Hollings? they may have endorsed someone against DeMint, but that would be a “loss”.

            1. Doug Ross

              What’s the endorsement record for The State for Governor going back to Carroll Campbell?

            2. Brad Warthen Post author

              I don’t know. As you see below, I didn’t research back that far. Because, frankly, I didn’t care. None of those people were on the board any more.

            3. Brad Warthen Post author

              No on Strom and Fritz, and yes on Graham. I don’t recall Strom or Fritz having opponents we preferred. But we did endorse Alex Sanders over Lindsey.

              I later regretted the one on Graham, after he’d been in the Senate awhile. I think he’s been a better senator than Sanders would have been, although Sanders would have been entertaining…

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            … which is why, in 2004, after 10 years of listening to it, I took the time to dig through our archives and come up with the actual figures.

            I wanted to refute two kinds of lies — one, that our candidates always lost, and two, that we always endorsed (pick the party that you hate).

            So I looked at general elections during the time I’d been on the board (starting in 1994), looking to see whom we endorsed, which party they belonged to, and whether they won or lost.

            I found that they were almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, and that our candidates had won about 75 percent of the time.

            By the last count I did, in 2008, our winning record had dropped to 73.28 percent, and we had endorsed 52.63 percent Democrats and 47.37 percent Republicans.

            Our best year for wins was 2000, with 16 winning and one losing, and our worst was 2002, with seven winning and six losing.

            Here’s a link to my last column on the subject, which includes a link to a simple spreadsheet showing the numbers by year.

  2. Doug Ross

    Was there any evidence of The State’s endorsements showing up in any campaign literature/emails/etc?

    I don’t recall any reference to it in any of the several direct mail pieces I got from Lindsey Graham.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I have no idea, Doug. And I wouldn’t bother to look, because it wouldn’t matter to me.

      Candidates do that sometimes, and frankly, I’m not all that happy about it. Just because you choose a candidate as (sometimes) the lesser of two evils doesn’t mean you want to be seen as aiding and abetting his or her campaign.

      Although I wouldn’t have minded someone like Graham quoting the endorsement, I guess…

  3. Doug Ross

    This year will be an interesting one for the endorsement for Governor. Would an editorial board flip from one candidate to another? If Sheheen was the right choice in 2010, how much better would Haley have to have been since then to flip the endorsement? Especially when it looks like a safe bet that Haley will be re-elected…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I wouldn’t categorically rule out a Haley endorsement. The chances are slightly better than four years ago. She really had practically no positives going for her then, while now she can at least point to some ecodevo victories. Also, she’s acted much more maturely with her vetoes this year.

      But the negatives are still there, and if you force me to bet, I’d bet on it being Sheheen.

      There’s a wild card factor — a different publisher. And while I never once had an endorsement dictated by any publisher, she is still a big factor on the board. And while I doubt that she’d be more likely to back the governor than her predecessor, I don’t KNOW that.

      Over the years, I learned not to predict endorsements, even in my own mind. Aside from wanting to keep myself open to possibilities, I was sometimes surprised by things that happened in our decision-making meetings…

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