Manchester Union-Leader Endorses Newt Gingrich
It was a good day for Newt Gingrich, but will it matter in the end?
New Hampshire voters woke up this morning with an endorsement from the state’s largest newspaper:
GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich received the endorsement of the influential editorial board of the New Hampshire Union Leader on Sunday, providing another boost to his surging campaign.
The endorsement gives the former House Speaker additional momentum after a month which has seen him vault to the top of national GOP polls.
“We are in critical need of the innovative, forward-looking strategy and positive leadership that Gingrich has shown he is capable of providing,” said the editorial by publisher Joseph W. McQuaid.
The Union Leader endorsement is highly regarded in the early primary state. Candidates often meet with the editorial board and place great emphasis on securing its backing.
The failure to win the board’s endorsement may be a setback for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaign which has struggled to win support from Tea party-affiliated voters and the right-wing of the GOP base.
Drew Cline, editorial page editor for the Union Leader, spoke about the board’s decision on CNN Sunday morning. Cline said that the board’s “two favorites were probably Perry, Gingrich.”
He added that the board, which failed to endorse Romney in 2008 as well gave “every candidate serious consideration.”
However explaining his view on the difference between the two candidates, he added that “Romney’s a guy who wants to be liked, a politician who wants to be liked. Gingrich is a politician who wants to be respected.”
“I’m not sure precisely what we get out of a President Romney, who could be a very good president,” he said.
From the editorial:
This newspaper endorses Newt Gingrich in the New Hampshire Presidential Primary.
America is at a crucial crossroads. It is not going to be enough to merely replace Barack Obama next year. We are in critical need of the innovative, forward-looking strategy and positive leadership that Gingrich has shown he is capable of providing.
He did so with the Contract with America. He did it in bringing in the first Republican House in 40 years and by forging balanced budgets and even a surplus despite the political challenge of dealing with a Democratic President. A lot of candidates say they’re going to improve Washington. Newt Gingrich has actually done that, and in this race he offers the best shot of doing it again.
Newt Gingrich is by no means the perfect candidate. But Republican primary voters too often make the mistake of preferring an unattainable ideal to the best candidate who is actually running. In this incredibly important election, that candidate is Newt Gingrich. He has the experience, the leadership qualities and the vision to lead this country in these trying times. He is worthy of your support on January 10.
It’s worth noting that the Union-Leader hasn’t exactly had the best record in selecting winners over the years. In 1976, they endorsed Ronald Reagan, who lost the primary that year to President Gerald Ford. In 1980, they endorsed Reagan again who went on to win the primary, the nomination, and the Presidency. In 1988, they endorsed Pete duPont, who ended up coming in 5th place in the primary. In 1992 and 1996, they endorsed Pat Buchanan, and while Buchanan won New Hampshire but quickly faded into irrelevance. In 2000, they endorsed Steve Forbes, who came in third in the primary. It wasn’t until 2008 that they ended up endorsing a candidate who would go on to win the nomination for the first time in 28 years when they endorsed John McCain.From that perspective, it’s not clear that this Union-Leader’s endorsement, or any newspaper endorsement for that matter, tells us much of anything about the state and future course of the race.
Nonetheless, it strikes me that this is likely to solidify Gingrich’s status as the final “not Romney” of the race before the January primaries begin. At the moment Gingrich is leading in the national polls, and he’s leading in Iowa although the most recent polling there is more than two weeks old and the last poll taken there seems unreliable. In New Hampshire, Romney remains solidly ahead, but Gingrich is a solid second. That poll I wrote about ten days or so ago which seemed to suggest that Gingrich had cut away at nearly all of Romney’s lead seems to have been an anomaly as two subsequent polls, from Suffolk University and WMUR-TV both show Romney in the same strong position he has been at during all previous polling.
Given all of this, Gingrich was already in position to be the chief competitor for Romney going into early January, and the Union-Leader only seems to make that more certain. For one thing, despite his habit for speaking off the top of his head, Gingrich is unlikely to make the same kind of mistakes that the previous “not-Romey’s” (Buchanan, Perry and Cain) have made. For another, there are only two debates between now and the Iowa Caucuses, and two more between the caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary, meaning that there’s very little opportunity for another candidate to break through unless they do so by staging a better-than-expected performance in Iowa. So, for now, it’s Romney v. Gingrich, and then the rest of the guys. Perhaps Perry will resurrect himself, but I doubt it. Perhaps Jon Huntsman will surge in New Hampshire, but that seems unlikely.
There could be problems for Romney, of course, if Gingrich starts surging in New Hampshire. Much of Mitt Romney’s campaign so far has been built on the idea that he is a solid lock to win New Hampshire by a wide margin and, so far, the polling supports that idea. However, if he ends up having to fight Gingrich off in the Granite State, or walks away on the night of January 10th with a win by a much smaller margin than people had anticipated then he could be weakened going into states like South Carolina and Florida. If that happens, then Romney is likely to pivot from campaigning as the inevitable nominee to campaigning as, ironically, the “not Gingrich.”
I still get the feeling that a race with Gingrich as his primary rival helps Romney. Yes, Gingrich appeals to the base in a way the Romney doesn’t even though they both have a record of changing their positions and backing policy positions that the base finds anathema. But, it seems unlikely that
Romney Gingrich is going to appeal to independents the same way that Romney does, which should be an advantage for Romney as the race moves into states with open primaries. Additionally, as I’ve noted before, there’s always Gingrich’s famous ability to say exactly the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time. He’s been more disciplined of late, but one cannot help but think that the Old Newt will be making a reappearance at some point, and Romney will be there waiting when it does.
Then again, I could be wrong. Maybe the Union-Leader has repeated 2008 and ended up endorsing the man who will win the Republican nomination. Of course, we all know what happened to that nominee in the end.