The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

It’s a Whole Newt Ballgame in New Hampshire


It’s official: Thanksgiving Weekend launched Gingrich-mania to a whole new level. You might say…. a whole Newt level.

The Only Union Leader Who Will Endorse Newt Is the One in Manchester

Life as the editor of a major paper in an early primary state must be a mixed blessing. Every four years, the nation’s political junkies and diehard campaign correspondents hang on your every word for the big question of your endorsement… and then a couple days after it’s offered, they forget about you. In fact, early-state lawmakers and voters probably feel the same way.

The political world is abuzz about the Manchester Union Leader’s endorsement of Newt Gingrich Sunday. As far as newspapers go, few papers punch above their weight the way the Union-Leader does. In September 2010, the Manchester Union Leader had a daily circulation of 48,342 and the circulation of its Sunday paper, the New Hampshire Sunday News, was 63,991. The Union Leader would need to sell another 32,000 or so to be the 100th most-read newspaper in America, knocking off the Press-Telegram of Long Beach, California and its daily circulation is still well behind newspapers in Roanoke, Virginia; Munster, Indiana; West Palm Beach, Florida; Worcester, Massachusetts, and Wilmington, Delaware.

This is not to say that the Union Leader endorsement isn’t news; because of the Internet and coverage of the editorial, the endorsement is undoubtedly the most-read words the paper writes every four years. But it’s fascinating how the quality of the editorial board – or more specifically, its traditional influence and reputation – is much more important in measuring the power of an endorsement than the quantity of its readers.

So why Newt Gingrich and not poll leader Mitt Romney?

CNN checks in with a regular in the Corner at NRO, Drew Cline.

In an interview on CNN, Union Leader editor page editor Andrew Cline said the paper narrowed down the candidates to a choice between Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Cline said the paper picked Gingrich because he had the political experience to enact much of his platform.

Cline said the board gave “a fresh start” to its consideration of Romney, who has long been a favorite to win New Hampshire’s primary, but who has been repeatedly challenged by the Union Leader’s editorial page.

“Romney’s a guy who wants to be liked,” Cline said. “He’s a politician who wants to be liked. Gingrich is a politician who wants to be respected, who wants to actually accomplish – he has an agenda that he wants to set in place.

Don Surber says the significance of the endorsement shouldn’t be underestimated: “Bill Loeb built the largest newspaper in New Hampshire’s national reputation on focusing on that state’s first-in-the-nation-primary during a time when presidential selections went from the party bosses to the primaries. Conservatives across the nation trust the newspaper’s judgment. It’s not that the endorsement will change their minds, it is that the endorsement will reinforce their decision. Conservatives want the most conservative candidate possible who can still defeat Barack Obama. That candidate increasingly is looking like Newt Gingrich. This endorsement reinforces that notion.”

Rick Klein of ABC News concurs: “Five weeks before voting starts – no candidate better positioned as Mitt alternative than Newt. That’s why the endorsement matters: validation.”

Moe Lane: “But do note: the Union-Leader doesn’t have a notable track record in picking candidates.  Although I don’t know why I’m bothering to tell you that: given their past sledgehammer-the-fly track record when it comes to pushback on bad news, Team Romney will end up using a fifty-foot laser cannon to inscribe that fact on the surface of the moon…”

Hugh Hewitt sees a two-man race now: “Gingrich supporters are jubilant this morning, and Team Romney disappointed, but it is the rest of the field that is truly crestfallen.  The endorsement of Newt by the Manchester Union Leader after a week in which Senator Ayotte and Congressman Bass endorsed Romney makes it a Romney-Gingrich race in the Granite State, and while the ice isn’t beginning to freeze over the Des Moines and Merrimack Rivers yet, it is over the GOP race.  Which is why my Washington Examiner column tomorrow is about Newt’s immigration stance which is driving a lot of the dynamic in Iowa.”

Donald Douglas is distinctly unenthusiastic about this development: “We’re gonna have a RINO as the GOP nominee. We know all about Newt’s accomplishments. And he is the smartest candidate in the race. I’m still going to have a hard time pulling the lever if he’s the nominee next November. Yeah, anybody but Obama, I guess. But Gingrich is the quintessential establishment insider. He threw the tea party under the bus. His personal skills are this side of the iceberg that sunk the Titanic. I’d prefer Mitt Romney, and again he’s not anywhere near my ideal candidate. Sarah Palin backers are pushing a “reconsider” ad in Iowa next week, so die-hards can still dream, in any case.”

On Meet the Press, the boss, a.k.a. Rich Lowry compared Newt Gingrich to the “Magruber” sketches on Saturday Night Live, parodying the old ABC television series MacGuyver. Wildly entertaining, reminding you of beloved icons of the 1980s… but you know there’s a ticking time bomb in the background and he might not be able to defuse it. He also said, when asked whether National Review will endorse anyone in the current field, “We haven’t decided yet… but watch our New York offices for the puff of white smoke.”

As many of you recall, National Review endorsed Romney in 2008. I had no role in the endorsement, but this didn’t stop anyone from complaining to me about it anyway.

Tags: New Hampshire , Newt Gingrich


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