We consider an endorsement to be a public display or pronouncement of support that articulates or strongly implies that a candidate is the endorser’s current No. 1 choice for president. That’s a wordy description, but it makes a few important points:
- The endorsement must be made publicly. A New York Times article saying that Senator Y is quietly backing Candidate X would not count, unless Senator Y has said or done something on behalf of the candidate publicly.
- The endorsement need not be as explicit as a statement saying “I endorse Candidate X.” Introducing a candidate at a rally would often count as an endorsement, for instance, depending on the context and tenor of the remarks.
- Endorsers can’t cheat by endorsing multiple candidates at once; an endorsement only counts if it indicates a first choice. Endorsers may switch candidates at any time, however.
- That first choice need not be someone who has officially entered the race. Hillary Clinton lined up dozens of endorsements before officially announcing her 2016 candidacy, for instance.
- When it’s unclear whether someone intended to endorse a candidate, we’ll check with the offices of the candidate and the endorser. We also encourage candidates and endorsers to contact us directly to let us know about any missing endorsements or any that seem to be in error. If the candidate and the endorser disagree about whether an endorsement has occurred, the endorser’s view will prevail.
Often, if you see someone listed as having endorsed a candidate and their public statements seem ambiguous, we’ve done additional reporting to confirm the endorsement.
Different endorsers are worth different numbers of “endorsement points” to reflect the relative value of various endorsers. In 2016, we tracked the endorsements of only sitting governors and members of Congress. In 2020, we expanded the universe of potential endorsers we track and adopted our current point scale, which is as follows:
- 10 points each: Current and former presidents, current and former vice presidents and current party leaders. We define “party leaders” as the speaker of the House, House majority and minority leaders, House majority and minority whips, Senate majority and minority leaders, Senate majority and minority whips and the chairs of the Democratic and Republican national committees.
- 8 points each: Current governors (including governor equivalents from the U.S. territories and Washington, D.C.).
- 6 points each: Current U.S. senators.
- 5 points each: Past presidential and vice presidential nominees, former party leaders, current or former members of the sitting president’s Cabinet and presidential candidates from the current cycle who appeared in at least one debate and have since dropped out.
- 3 points each: Current U.S. representatives (including non-voting delegates from U.S. territories) and mayors of cities with a population of at least 300,000 people.1
- 2 points each: Officials holding statewide or territory-wide elected office, excluding positions of which a state has more than one (e.g. Arizona’s corporation commissioners), and the highest-ranking Democrat and Republican in each chamber of state and territorial legislatures.2
- 1 point each (Democratic primaries only): DNC members not otherwise covered by this list. We do not track endorsements for RNC members in Republican primaries because Republicans do not have “superdelegates.”
Endorsers’ point values cannot be increased by qualifying for multiple categories; instead, endorsers are associated with the highest-ranking category they fit into on the list above. For instance, Sen. Mitt Romney is treated as a senator (6 points) rather than a former presidential nominee (5 points) because being a senator is worth more points.
These point values apply only to whoever currently holds the position in question. If a senator resigns from office, for instance, their endorsement is no longer worth any endorsement points unless they fit into one of our other categories. (An exception: The candidate keeps the points if the endorser dies while holding the position.) Candidates cannot endorse themselves, so people who are currently running for president are removed from the endorsement pool until they drop out.
No set of categories and point values is going to be perfect; it doesn’t necessarily seem right that Hillary Clinton’s endorsement would be worth less than that of the governor of Delaware, for instance. But our point scale is already quite complex, and we don’t want to make too many one-off exceptions.
Below is the number of potential Republican endorsers in each category as of April 18, 2023, including both Republican and independent potential endorsers, except independents who are de facto Democrats. Democratic endorsers will appear in our Republican endorser tracker if and when any of them endorse Republican candidates for president. Note that the list of potential endorsers can grow and shrink over time as offices change hands.
|Category||Point Scale||No. of Potential Endorsers||Total Points|
|Former presidents and vice presidents||10||4||40|
|Past presidential and vice-presidential nominees||5||2||10|
|Former party leaders||5||25||125|
|Mayors of large cities||3||21||63|
|Other statewide officeholders||2||147||294|
Aaron Bycoffe A computational journalist for FiveThirtyEight.
Nate Silver Editor in chief.
1.2 2024 endorsement tracker.
1.1 2020 endorsement tracker.
1.0 2016 endorsement tracker.