Welcome to my rare—that is, quadrennial—attempt to play prognosticator, picking a winner in the race for the White House. Well, join the club, right? Nowadays you can check Twitter and get 100 “expert’ predictions within an hour, or maybe, a minute. What makes mine different, even unique, is that I always base my guess on the editorial endorsements from newspapers in each swing state.
Laughable, you might say, but check out my track record for accuracy, below.
Who cares about newspapers today, or even if you do care, surely you don’t think their endorsements carry any weight (even if, perhaps, they once did). I won’t argue that point at length again. I’ve written several pieces on the subject, such as here, and last weekend I was quoted testifying to this by no less than The New York Times’s new public editor, Margaret Sullivan.
And even I claim that they have a relatively small effect. But in close votes in the swingiest of swing states, everything counts.
But here’s the real reason why you might want to listen up: my record on picking the winner in “battleground” states in 2004 and 2008 might have been unmatched by anyone—and based purely on newspaper endorsements, not polls or common sense or past history.
Perhaps I was just lucky, but my nearly 95 percent record of accuracy (nailing fourteen of fifteen correctly in 2004 and twelve of thirteen in 2008) might mean…something? Remember: while the dead-tree editions of newspapers continue to plunge in readership, many of them actually reach a wider audience than ever, because of the web.
Anyway, when I made these picks previously, I was serving as the editor of “the bible of the newspaper industry,” Editor & Publisher. In those past two elections, E&P was the definitive source for endorsements, logging hundreds of them from papers big and small. This year several new outlets have taken on that chore, but they miss many smaller papers and weeklies. But I’ve always put much more weight on larger papers to begin with, based on circulation.
So here we go. Also, for frequent updates on campaign news and views and polls, try my Pressing Issues blog. Plus: The first e-book on Obama-Romney race has been published--and it's mine! Covers contest right up to yesterday. Or wait for update on Wednesday.
OHIO I’ve written previously that, actually, this state may not decide the election, since Obama (if not Romney) has numerous other paths to victory that do not lead through Ohio. Still, it’s obviously a key, and the four largest newspapers,The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and Toledo Blade (Obama) vs. The Columbus Dispatch and The Cincinnati Enquirer (Romney) are split. So we’ll let number five, the Akron Beacon-Journal, call it for OBAMA.
NEVADA The Las Vegas Review and the Reno paper both went for Romney so—even though I think Obama will win the state—I must stick to my stated method, and so it’s ROMNEY.
NEW HAMPSHIRE The state is divided down the middle, according to polls, but the three largest papers have all gone for Romney. So, again, even though Obama might very carry the state, I have to stick with the newspapers, and give it to ROMNEY.
PENNSYLVANIA There are new reports that Romney now thinks he has a shot here (some say it’s closer than in Ohio), but we would advise him to skip it—the two largest papers, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette went for Obama. The rabidly right-wing Pittsburgh Tribune-Review picked Mitt, but most of the next tier chose the president, so we are going with OBAMA here.
IOWA The Romney pick by The Des Moines Register got a great deal of attention but it could have been balanced by the next three biggest papers going for Obama but, alas, they all stuck with ROMNEY.
NORTH CAROLINA The state’s largest papers (it may surprise many to learn) have all gone for Obama, from the cities of Raleigh and Charlotte, plus Winston-Salem and Asheville. He’s an underdog now but, based on this and the ghost of Joseph Pulitzer, I am sworn to pick OBAMA.
COLORADO The (by far) biggest paper, The Denver Post, went for Obama but what about the many smaller papers? Most also went with him, so it’s an easy pick here (if still a toss-up in real life) for OBAMA.
FLORIDA The state, and its papers, are always split and once again this is on display. Yes, The Miami Herald and Tampa Bay (formerly St. Petersburg) Times have gone for Obama, but several other large papers have gone against him, from Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, The Tampa Tribune and more. So it’s ROMNEY.
MICHIGAN This is another state that Romney forces consider very much in play even if most pollsters may disagree. Romney has gained the lion’s share of endorsements but the giant paper in the state, the Detroit Free Press, went for Obama (as did Michael Moore’s hometown Flint Journal). So, based on circ numbers, it’s OBAMA.
WISCONSIN Another case where most papers went for Romney but the largest one that made an early choice, The Capital Times picked Obama. (The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel chose not to make a pick this year.) But just now, the Wisconsin State Journal--based in liberal Madison--surprisingly picked Romney, after going with Obama last time. It also endorsed Tommy Thompson over Tammy Baldwin, by the way. So I have to go with ROMNEY in this state.
VIRGINIA The largest paper, by a wide margin, the Richmond Times-Dispatch,went for Romney, as did the lion’s share of smaller papers. But the two other major papers, in the Norfolk area and in Roanoke, have not yet made a pick and if they both go for Obama, I will have to call an audible at the line. But neither endorsed Obama nor McCain in 2008, so that appears unlikely.
So that’s it: eleven states are split, with five going for Obama and five for Romney, and Virginia undecided.
But if these picks are correct, Obama will (barely) earn another term on Tuesday, or get a wider margin if he does take Virginia. Plus: Here’s the latest rundown on how the top 100 newspapers have endorsed so far, showing Obama with a narrow lead in the number of backers—but a very wide margin in total audience of those picking him.
Greg Mitchell has written three books on highly influential American campaigns: The Campaign of the Century (Upton Sinclair’s race for governor of California in 1934), Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady (Nixon-Douglas, 1950) and Why Obama Won (2008). You can find links to these books and frequent updates on the latest 2012 campaign news at my blog Pressing Issues.