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.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Hey Norm says:

    Gingrich achieved a balanced budget in spite of Clinton?
    Did Eric, Drew, and Jan team up to write that endorsement?
    That’s like saying Terry Bradshaw beat the Eagles today in spite of Tom Brady.
    The GOP has lost all grasp of reality.
    Clintons Budget Reconciliation set the table for a balanced budget, along with Bush 41’s tax deal…which Republicans tossed him out of office for. Gingrich voted no on the ’93 deal, then signed on when a balanced budget was all but accomplished.
    A hypocrit and a liar… No wonder the same paper that endorsed Buchanan and Forbes has endorsed Newt…just the latest not-Mitt.

  2. Chris Berez says:

    I was expecting the Leader to endorse Gingrich over Romney, so I wasn’t surprised by this. Romney is ridiculously popular here, but he’s also far too flip-floppy for a UL endorsement. Similarly, Cain and Bachmann are too extreme and laughably unrealistic to garner an endorsement. UL would never endorse people like Huntsman, Paul or Johnson. Romney switches positions far too often and has no credibility. Therefore, the Leader couldn’t endorse him. Gingrich, despite his baggage, was the better alternative. Despite that, though, I don’t think this will hurt Romney’s chances in NH. The Leader will be wrong this cycle (and I think they know that), but they’ll claim to some sort of semblance of clinging to their socially conservative principles. Romney is popular in NH, and furthermore, there is a great deal of anti-Obama and anti-Democrat anger here right now. Republicans will do well in NH in this election, whether it be Romney or Gingrich or someone else. I don’t think the UL really thinks it’ll be Newt. But if you’re a conservative, there’s not much to say about Romney other than “Well, at least he’s not Obama.”

  3. Lgbpop says:

    The Union-Leader hasn’t been the kingmaker it used to be in New Hampshire, at least not since Bill Loeb was the publisher. One other problem rears its head here – the primary is so early now, the paper runs the risk of endorsing a candidate who may very well drop out for lack of support anywhere else. That wasn’t so much of a problem when the voting took place in March, back when the presidential marathon was merely too long.

  4. Fiona says:

    But, it seems unlikely that Romney is going to appeal to independents the same way that Romney does,

    Yeah–that does seem unlikely. LOL.

    While it’s likely the Newster will be the last non-Romney left standing, I don’t think he’s got it in him to win the nomination. Not only can the Republican establishment not tolerate him but his own (incredibly unpleasant) personality also works against him. And yeah–his appeal to independents is strictly limited.

  5. An unintentionally funny typo 🙂

  6. de stijl says:

    It’s worth noting that the Union-Leader hasn’t exactly had the best record in selecting winners over the years.

    An endorsement is not a prediction nor should it be. I don’t agree with the choice and certainly not the logic behind it, but the editors can endorse whomever they wish for whatever reasons they choose. Given the previous endorsements of du Pont and Forbes, it’s pretty clear they don’t give a fig if they call it right.

    Same goes for the IA caucuses and the NH primary. Everyone always freaks out if they pick someone who is not the eventual nominee & I could never understand why.

  7. Linton says:

    Nate Silver’s NYT blog has a good post on this. The importance of the endorsement is that it has traditionally provided a substantial boost to the recipient.

    http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/newspapers-endorsement-has-been-leading-indicator-in-new-hampshire/?utm_medium

  8. Curtis says:

    I too would recommend Silver’s analysis of the endorsement.

    Things look inevitable when looking backwards, so if Newt doesn’t win the nomination, then we will say it didn’t matter at all. And if he does, we may point to this as the moment that solidified him as the consensus anti-Romney candidate which spelled all the difference.

    I do think it matters somewhat. I think it closes the door on the only plausible Hunstman scenario, which wasn’t particularly likely anyway. (Basically that Romney did so poorly in Iowa losing to a candidate the “establishment” found so toxic that they decided Romney was done and needed a new standard bearer against the toxic candidate.) It also is further proof that he is acceptable to another segment of the Republican primary electorate.

    The next month of debates should be quite interesting.

  9. Toni says:

    @Hey Norm:

    Thank you!! I thouhgt I was going crazy when I read that about the balanced budget. Why can’t the reporters get the facts straight. Isn’t there enough confusion out there? And to give Newt credit for that. Shame.

  10. michael reynolds says:

    Paul Begala on Gingrich. “[It’s] going to end with Newt and a can of gasoline and a Bic lighter. That’s the way things always end.”

  11. de stijl says:

    @michael reynolds:

    [It’s] going to end with Newt and a can of gasoline and a Bic lighter.

    Was Begala’s point about self-immolation? I’m assuming not since he’s talking about Gingrich whose ego makes a Montana sky look like a 6″x6″ Supermax sunset vista.

    If I had to guess, Begala is envisioning more of a White Heat “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!” type of exit for Mr. Gingrich.

    With America as the stand-in for the oil tank.

    Newt is not gonna go out like some Buddhist monk patsy schlemiel.

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  13. Ben Wolf says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Best typo of the week Doug, and best description of Romney I’ve yet heard.