Press "Enter" to skip to content

Agriculture endorsed Koster. Why does it matter?

In the race for governor, some endorsements have the campaigns calling the impact of endorsements into question.

Attorney General Chris Koster shocked many by winning a trifecta of agriculture endorsements.

In the course of one week, he earned the support of the Missouri Farm Bureau, the Missouri Corn Growers Association and the Missouri Soybean Association.


The rural Democrat served in the Senate as a Republican before changing parties and spent years cultivating the relationships and record needed to secure the endorsements.

“Chris has shown he understands agriculture and what it takes to grow the industry. He has been a great partner for Missouri soybean growers and has been committed to prioritize agriculture as our governor,” said Matthew McCrate, president of the Soybean Association, when it announced the endorsement.

But Koster’s opponent quickly said that the endorsements wouldn’t matter.

Greitens victory over endorsements

After months of hard-fought campaigning, Eric Greitens cruised to victory in the Aug. 2 Republican primary for governor. But in a competitive four-way race, Greitens’ 10-point victory left some confused and shaking their heads.

Even in an “outsider” cycle, Greitens victory defied some long-held political beliefs. Notably, in proudly pro-life Missouri, he won despite the state’s leading pro-life group telling supporters not to vote for him.

More: Missouri Right to Life holds firm on Greitens non-endorsement


In the aftermath of their primary victory, the Greitens’ campaign refuted the idea that the endorsements would help Koster. (It should be noted Greitens has his own endorsements, including a police endorsement that fell through.)

“If this election cycle has shown anything, it is that endorsements don’t move voters like they used to. Eric looks forward to working with these organizations when he is governor,” campaign manager Austin Chambers told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Greitens campaign didn’t respond to a request for further comment from the Missouri Times.

Koster’s campaign called that response typical spin while pointing out that Koster’s endorsements are a sign of momentum building behind his coalition.

“It’s no surprise that a candidate who has admitted to not knowing much about agriculture would downplay the importance of a historic endorsement of Attorney General Koster by the Missouri Farm Bureau,” said David Turner, spokesman for Koster’s campaign. “When added together with the additional endorsements of the Missouri Soybean Association, the Missouri Corn Growers, the MNEA, and today, the Fraternal Order of Police, it is clear that many Missourians want proven leadership with a record of getting things done, not just someone who knows how to blow things up.”

Agriculture groups represent some voters economic interests

While endorsements of all types will be thrown around during the campaign, economic endorsements could be the most impactful.

The Farm Bureau, Corn Growers and Soybean Association represent many farmers and how they make their living. By endorsing Koster, these groups are saying he’s the best candidate for these Missourians economic future.

“Our mission is to improve the bottom line for producers through policy, and our board of directors takes the endorsement process very seriously,” said McCrate, who’s also a farmer in Cape Girardeau. “In meeting with candidates and discussion potential endorsements, a big part of what we’re looking for is an understanding of the challenges facing our farmers and a commitment to supporting those policies that tie back to our mission.”

When the Missouri Soybean Association endorsed Koster, they cited his record of supporting biodiesel. Programs he supported include the Renewable Fuel Standard and Missouri Qualified Biodiesel Producer Incentive Fund.

Estimates from the Soybean Association show that biodiesel supports about 2,600 Missouri jobs and has generated $1.7 billion in value-added benefit to Missouri’s GDP. They also cite reports showing that processing soybean oil into biodiesel can increase the value of an acre’s worth of soybeans oil from $168 to $243.

Do group endorsements matter?

Research shows that economic endorsements are among the most impactful, said Dr. Greg Vonnahme, associate professor of political science at the University of Missouri – Kansas City.

“Group endorsements do matter. It is something that voters do rely on, really almost across context,” he said. “For lower level offices where candidates are somewhat less familiar, then voters are more likely to rely on major interest group endorsements, especially when they align with major interests.”

There are two groups with special interests who would outweigh economic endorsements, Vonnahme said. Those groups are the NRA and Missouri Right to Life.

Greitens victory seemed to show that the Right to Life endorsement didn’t matter. But Vonnahme pointed out that two-thirds of Republican primary voters didn’t vote for him.

As far as the NRA goes, Greitens received an AQ rating in the primary while Koster has received an A rating in the past. 

“At the end of the day, group endorsements matter, but they matter at the margins. We’re not going to see a 10, 15 point swing in the election based on any particular endorsement,”Vonnahme said. “But if it’s at the margins, you’re already looking at an uphill battle.”

Early polling shows a close race. Greitens’ losing at the margins could be significant. 

Celebrity endorsements don’t matter

While Chambers said endorsements might not matter as much as they used to, he was talking about the group endorsements. The Greitens campaign might use some of that advice for endorsements they tout.

Throughout the primary, and bleeding into the general election, the campaign has celebrated endorsements from former Navy SEAL Rob O’Neill and former presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson.

But Vonnahme said those “celebrity” endorsements tend not to matter. That’s especially true when compared with groups that represent members’ interests.

“It might be nice to appear with Oprah, or whatever, but that doesn’t really make much difference,” he said.

But in a year where Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president, maybe the traditional rules shouldn’t count.

“All this could be wrong,” Vonnahme said. “Maybe this is the year that outsiders really break through in a major way and beat back the major interest groups. … But I tend to be relatively skeptical.”