For as long as Mitt Romney has been a player on the political landscape of New England—on a two-decade-long strange ideological journey that has seen him challenge Ted Kennedy as an almost liberal, get elected governor of Massachusetts as a mushy moderate and seek the presidency as a conservative firebrand—he has been covered by the region’s largest newspaper, the Boston Globe.

The Globe literally wrote the book on Romney, over the years and in an seven-part series that will form the basis for a paperback biography if the former Massachusetts governor secures the Republican presidential nomination. And though the paper is reasonably liberal, it often praised Romney when he served as governor and it has a history of sympathizing with Grand Old Party patricians such as Bill Weld.

So who is the Globe urging its substantial readership in southern New Hampshire to back in next Tuesday’s first-in-the-nation Republican presidential primary?

Hometown boy Mitt Romney, right? Wrong.

The Globe has joined a number of other newspapers from the region—including New Hampshire’s Concord Monitor, Keene Sentinel and Valley News—in backing former Utah Governor and US Ambassador to China John Huntsman.

What makes the Globe endorsement of Huntsman so striking is the extent to which it rips Romney. “[He] campaigns in a way that gives little indication of the kind of president he would be,” the paper complains. “His attacks on Obama are so hyperbolic—the president favors European-style socialism, apologizes for America, doesn’t understand the vision of the founding fathers—that they say nothing about his own viewpoint; most likely, he’s trying to stir up enough dust to suggest a passionate denunciation of Obama without offering a disciplined critique or alternative course. When he vows to ‘get rid of ObamaCare‘ and trim programs like the National Endowment for the Arts he’s merely checking boxes on the GOP playlist.”

Ouch.

Then the paper slips the stiletto into the “corporations are people, my friend” candidate:

Without personal experience to guide him, Romney is catering to the most vocal constituencies in the national security wing of the GOP. As in other areas, such as his Robert Bork–led advisory panel on judicial policies, Romney’s ultimate intentions aren’t clear. Is this for real? Both his supporters and detractors suspect that behind the conservative scaffolding is a data-driven moderate who will make practical compromises. But the way Romney has run his campaign, it’s impossible to tell.

Nonetheless, there is a widespread belief that Romney’s campaign, like a well-designed corporate strategy, is bound for success. But even if Romney emerges as the nominee, it matters how he gets there. Already, the religious right, represented by Rick Santorum, and Tea Party activists, represented by Ron Paul, have pushed Romney in unwanted directions. In New Hampshire, Republican and independent voters have a chance, through Huntsman, to show him a sturdier model. Jon Huntsman would be a better president. But if he fails, he could still make Romney a better candidate.

 

There is such a thing as damning with faint praise.

But, for all intents and purposes, the Globe has damned Romney without any praise whatsoever,