In an election cycle marked by Internet and cable information saturation and the use of micro-targeting to tailor messages to tiny slices of the electorate, the importance of the newspaper endorsement is unclear. But the campaigns think enough of their value to put their candidates before editorial boards in swing states.
So far, the race for endorsements is shaping up to look much like the presidential campaign itself — President Obama enjoys a slight lead, but has lost ground since 2008. As of Friday evening, he led Mitt Romney 18 to 16 in major newspaper endorsements, but four of Romney’s 15 endorsements come from papers that supported Obama four years ago.
(RELATED: See Who Newspapers in Swing States Endorsed)
But according to data on the 100 largest U.S. newspapers compiled by the University of California-Santa Barbara’s American Presidency Project, Romney enjoys a slight lead in swing-state endorsements (counting Pennsylvania, Michigan, and North Carolina) from major papers, landing eight so far to Obama’s seven. The four biggest swing-state papers -- The Denver Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Tampa Bay Times, and The Plain Dealer of Cleveland -- have all endorsed the president.
It’s still early, though, and about two-thirds of major papers had not issued their endorsements as of late Friday.
So far, the biggests coups have come in Florida, where The Orlando Sentinel endorsed Romney on Oct. 19 and the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel followed suit on Oct. 26. Both papers endorsed Obama in 2008, but cited disappointment with the president’s performance in turning around the economy to explain their endorsements of Romney.
Wisconsin's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, with a circulation of 185,000, endorsed Obama in 2008 but no longer issues candidate endorsements.
Notably, The Detroit News, which endorsed Sen. John McCain in 2008, is sticking with the GOP in 2012, despite Romney’s opposition to the auto bailout, which has been credited with saving the American auto industry. The paper thanks Obama for his leadership on the bailout, but writes, “Despite his wrong-headedness on the auto bailout, we believe Romney when he proclaims himself a ‘car guy.’”
Though it’s not likely to help the president get to 270 electoral votes, he can take solace in an Oct. 19 endorsement from the San Antonio Express-News. The paper is the only one of the top 100 so far that has shifted its support to the president after endorsing McCain in 2008. According to the endorsement’s headline, “Obama has earned a second term.”
For a paper that endorsed Obama’s opponent when the Democrat was riding a wave of optimism four years ago, the Express-News endorsement stands out even more for the solidly positive review it gives Obama’s first term.
Even The Washington Post’s editorial board, which has consistently supported the president, mentions in the fourth paragraph of its endorsement “the disappointments of Mr. Obama’s first term,” before going on to paint Romney as an untrustworthy political opportunist.
The Express-News though, touts Obama’s record on the financial crisis, banking regulation, the housing market, the auto bailout, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other issues before discussing its disappointments with his first term and qualifying them: “These shortcomings, however, don’t justify a change in leadership.”
The country’s two biggest-circulation papers, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, generally do not endorse candidates.