Last week, I revealed that I would be carrying on a tradition here, over the following month, that I promoted at Editor & Publisher, when I edited that magazine during the previous decade: charting editorial endorsements for president by newspapers, great and small. E&P, during 2004 and 2008, became the leading source for this and drew wide attention, as we found a nearly even split in the first case (forecasting a very close Bush-Kerry race) and then broad support for Obama (his vote on Election Day would mirror that). See a sample from 2008.
Now, what of 2012?
Today we open our tally for this year. As in the past, I will note where possible the newspaper’s pick four years ago. My assistant, Steven Hsieh, is lending a hand. Please send me (at Epic1934@aol.com) any endorsements you see. Remember, they must be the newspaper’s own editorials, not one of its columnists simply mouthing off.
If you missed it, please check out last week’s background column—on why, contrary to conventional wisdom, these endorsements do matter. Note that I might have had the best record of anyone in picking winners in dozens of swing states—based solely on newspaper endorsements.
Most newspapers don’t endorse until mid-October, so we’re off to a slow start. One major paper, The Seattle Times, has just backed Obama, and another, The Dallas Morning News, picked Romney. The North County Times in California, a daily from just north of San Diego, also went with Mitt. No switches from 2004 as yet. The Union-Tribune in San Diego, recently taken over by right-wing business interests, has been lobbying hard for Romney but has published no formal endorsement.
Here’s Steven Hsieh’s write-ups on the two major papers.
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The Dallas Morning News recommended Romney for president, touting the candidate’s tenure at Bain as proof that he “understands capital formation and how that, extrapolated through an economy can lift the US from its stalled state.” The paper also paints Romney as a capable leader, citing his experience at the head of Massachusetts state and the 2002 Olympics.
Though the Morning News expresses reservation over Romney’s various flip-flops, “47 percent” comments and foreign policy blunders, the paper supports the candidate’s economic platform:
His plans for tax and entitlement reform are encouraging, shifting the focus from government first to freeing the private sector to innovate. Voters should demand more specifics, but at the heart of his plans—especially on reforming a teetering Medicare system—is an instinct to rely on competition over regulation to drive growth.
On the other end, The Seattle Times endorsed Obama for the second election in a row, this time “with less enthusiasm.” The North Pacific paper contrasts the candidates in nine areas, showing heavy criticism for the president on his handling of the national debt and financial system after the 2008 crisis, but no confidence for his challenger to do any better. The editorial ends with a succinct summary of the board’s position: “Obama’s presidency has been disappointing, but he still has promise. Romney would be too much of a gamble.”
Greg Mitchell has written more than a dozens books, three of of them on classic American campaigns: Upton Sinclair's race for governor of California in 1934, the Nixon-Douglas contest in 1950, and Obama 2008. Go here to find the books and also his hour-by-hour updates on campaign 2012.