In the U.S. Senate race, Sharron Angle has racked up the longest string of endorsements, from the serious to the strange, from the conservative national Tea Party movement and Nevada Concerned Citizens to bald and bold "Joe the Plumber" and balladeer Pat Boone.
Danny Tarkanian has distributed a pro-gun photo-op with one of his backers, a medal-winning Olympic trapshooter, and touted an endorsement from Sarah Palin's dad in a campaign radio ad.
Sue Lowden has promoted endorsements from a Vietnam War veteran and an anti-abortion group that will spend $1 million for her as she tries to reach key GOP primary voters.
Hoping to break out of the basement, Chad Christensen's campaign has crowed he's "one for one," winning the only endorsement he has sought so far, from the state senator who wrote an Arizona law to crack down on illegal immigrants, which the Las Vegas assemblyman wants to duplicate in Nevada.
As for John Chachas, the investment banker was whispered to be trying to buy the backing of the most active Nevada affiliate of the Tea Party movement, a rumor dismissed and loudly denied by all.
Just two weeks before early voting begins, the Republican contenders who want to face off with U.S. Sen. Harry Reid in the fall are fighting first to win the June 8 primary, partly by fishing for trophy-size or brag-worthy endorsements from people and groups that could make a difference.
"Particularly if you're behind, you're looking for any boost to catch up," said Erik Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. "Everyone wants a big name endorsement from a Mitt Romney or a Sarah Palin, but if you can reach out to some small sliver of the electorate with an endorsement, you might as well try. Even a small, quasi-fringe group isn't a bad thing."
For example, the "Change the Congress in 2010" Political Action Committee switched its endorsement from Lowden to Angle, generating a congratulatory e-mail blast from the Tea Party Express, which made national headlines by endorsing Angle in April. Bloggers picked up on the switch, too, but whether it will have any lasting effect on Nevada voters is questionable.
Catherine Welborn, executive director of the PAC, runs it from South Carolina. She started it last year because she was fed up with "do-nothing incumbents" in Congress.
She counts 20,000 Facebook members as her following, but she's the lone endorsement vote and the organization isn't flush with cash to aid candidates: It reported $1,280 in donations in 2009 and spent $611.
"I made a mistake!!! And it probably won't be the last one," she wrote April 28 to her Facebook tribe with an unknown number of Nevadans. "After all, I'm only human and God is the only perfect being."
In a phone interview, Welborn said she initially picked Lowden last month because she wanted to weigh in on the Reid race and the former state Republican Party chairwoman seemed to have the right stuff. But then she started getting e-mails complaining and suggesting Angle was the better choice.
"Lowden didn't display true conservative values like Angle," Welborn said of the former Reno assemblywoman who has a strict no-tax record. "Lowden, she's too slick, too much of a politician."
Lowden, a former state senator and casino executive, is also the GOP front-runner, making her seem a bit less desperate in the endorsement chase even as the race tightened after she committed a much-maligned gaffe by suggesting people could barter with their doctors.
To date, Lowden's most significant endorsement came from the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group that launched a $50,000 radio ad campaign on her behalf last week, praising what it called her "pro-life record" as a state senator. She backed a push to require girls to notify their parents if they wanted an abortion, or a judge if that wasn't possible. The bill failed to get a floor vote.
The endorsement hasn't inoculated her from critics who point to her confession that as a private citizen a few decades ago she had supported a woman's right to choose abortion.
Lowden also won a big money endorsement from former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, an actor, and his wife, Jeri, who last week held a $100-to-$1,000 per person rooftop fundraiser for her in Washington. They also signed a letter requesting donations for her campaign.
Col. George "Pete" Peterson, a Vietnam veteran, starred in a radio ad promoting Lowden, praising her for touring the combat region with the USO and Bob Hope instead of protesting the war.
Campaign manager Robert Uithoven said Lowden has focused most of her efforts on collecting signed "support cards" from voters across Nevada, instead of stacking up big endorsements. The campaign has made 190,000 voter contacts and collected nearly 10,000 voter endorsement cards.
"Our campaign since Day One wasn't geared toward getting big political endorsements from big political groups, but we've been extremely aggressive in getting endorsements of individual voters," Uithoven said of the primary contest that could be won with as little as 35,000 votes.
Tarkanian, trying to catch Lowden by primary Election Day, won two endorsements this past week that should play well with the conservative guns rights and anti-illegal immigration crowds.
Kim Rhode, a two-time Olympic gold medal winner in the double trap who also has won bronze and silver medals in the past decade, went shooting with Tarkanian and posed for photos -- each time holding a shotgun -- that his campaign sent out with the official endorsement.
Tarkanian supporters introduced him to Rhode, who is from California, and they spent only one day together shooting to get to know each other, according to his campaign.
Tarkanian has a closer relationship with Sarah Palin's dad, Chuck Heath, whom he met during the 2008 presidential campaign when the former Alaska governor was the GOP vice presidential contender. Heath did a radio ad endorsing Tarkanian, and has campaigned for him in Nevada as well.
On Monday, Tarkanian is scheduled to campaign in Las Vegas and Reno with his newest backer, Jim Gilchrist, co-founder of the Minuteman Project, the anti-illegal immigration group that guarded the U.S. border with guns five years ago to protest the flow of non-Americans coming across.
Republican politicians and candidates in Nevada and elsewhere have embraced the election-year issue. Critics say the U.S. government isn't doing its job of securing the border, which prompted Arizona to pass a law giving law enforcement the right to question suspected illegal immigrants in some cases.
Leading Democrats and civil libertarians have charged that the new law could lead to racial profiling.
Oddly enough, Angle also won the endorsement of the political wing of the group, the Minuteman PAC, whose honorary chairman Chris Simcox apparently split from Gilchrist.
Angle's most noteworthy endorsement came from the Tea Party Express, which organized a massive protest in Reid's hometown of Searchlight that drew 8,000 to 10,000 people. It also has been running ads touting Angle, and plans to spend as much as $500,000 to promote her.
Among Angle's other endorsements -- a devout conservative bunch -- are Gun Owners of America; Life & Liberty PAC; Citizens United Political Victory Fund; Phyllis Schlafly Eagle Forum; Joe "the Plumber" Wurzelbacher, the Ohio man who gained fame in 2008 when he confronted then-presidential candidate Barack Obama about his small business tax policy, and singer Pat Boone.
"I know a real conservative when I meet one," said Boone, who noted he also helped Republican icon Ronald Reagan win the California governor's job and then the White House.
Bill Parson, a little-known candidate and U.S. Marine from Moapa, has picked up conservative endorsements, too, most from groups enamored of his focus on the U.S. Constitution. They include the Independence Caucus, Citizens in Action, Conservative Moms for America and Song of Truth.
"I'm running a total grass-roots campaign, but I'm getting support," Parson said.
The back of the pack of a dozen GOP candidates is a lonely place, and sometimes an endorsement gets voters' attention, if only for a day when it might make the news.
Christensen met privately last week with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a fellow conservative and Mormon. But the 2008 presidential candidate and potential 2012 White House contender refused to endorse him or any Republican running in the U.S. Senate race.
Romney came to town to back GOP candidate Joe Heck in his race against freshman Democratic Rep. Dina Titus.
Yet all was not lost on the endorsement front for Christensen, who last week won support from Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, the man behind the new law cracking down on illegal immigrants.
Christensen also found a hot issue to ride and vowed to lead a ballot initiative to get the law changed in Nevada by popular vote since GOP Gov. Jim Gibbons refused his call for a special legislative session.
"We are one for one on endorsements. The only one we have sought so far, we have gotten," Christensen's campaign manager Ron Futrell said, noting the two lawmakers have known each other for years and worked on homeland security issues. "Many endorsements in elections are bought by candidates, so to that end they are virtually meaningless."
Which brings us to the pay for political play rumor mill.
Chachas, a Wall Street investment banker and Ely native, returned to Nevada after nearly three decades out of state to run for the U.S. Senate, arguing he understands the economy like no other candidate. He also understands the value of a dollar and getting to know voters any which way he can.
So when the Tea Party-aligned group, Action is Brewing, asked for donations to help fund a Tax Day protest in Carson City, Chachas cut a check for at least $3,000, no strings attached, he said.
Critics, and other campaigns, started whispering that he was trying to buy the group's support, something its organizer Debbie Landis said wasn't true.
Instead, she said Action is Brewing, which is leading the local Tea Party effort to oppose Reid, would survey its network of leaders about whom they support and the group might release the informal tally for Nevadans to see.
"We want the voters to make their own decisions," Landis said recently after she hosted a Reno debate. "I think endorsements aren't very democratic. Who are we to tell the people who to choose?"
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