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Posted by on Oct 18, 2008 in At TMV, Media, Politics | 24 comments

Chicago Tribune Endorses Obama

Most newspaper endorsements for Presidential candidates are worthless. Editorial staffs typically lean one way or another and predictably back the nominee of the preferred party. Sometimes the endorsement is hearty enough to merit attention; the Washington Post editorial of Obama was considerably stronger than the one they gave to Kerry in 2004.

Some newspapers waver back and forth. The Denver Post, for example, endorsed George W. Bush in 2004 and backs Obama today.

But no newspaper endorsement is as shocking as that of the Chicago Tribune today
Why is it so shocking that Obama’s hometown newspaper endorsed him? Simple. This is the first time in the newspaper’s 161 year history that it has endorsed a Democrat. And some of those Democrats passed over in years past were Illinoisans, including Adlai Stevenson and Stephen Douglas. This is a list of the people the Tribune has endorsed before this year:

2008: Obama
2004: Bush
2000: Bush
1996: Dole
1992: Bush
1988: Bush
1984: Reagan
1980: Reagan
1976: Ford
1972: Nixon
1968: Nixon
1964: Goldwater
1960: Nixon
1956: Eisenhower
1952: Eisenhower (though Col. McCormick wanted Gen. MacArthur more)
1948: Dewey
1944: Dewey
1940: Willkie
1936: Landon
1932: Hoover
1928: Hoover
1924: Coolidge
1920: Harding
1916: Hughes
1912: Roosevelt (as a Progressive Party candidate, though a former Republican)
1908: Taft
1904: Roosevelt
1900: McKinley
1896: McKinley
1892: Harrison
1888: Harrison
1884: Blaine
1880: Garfield
1876: Hayes
1872: Greeley (a Liberal Republican co-nominated by the Democrats; Greeley was a founder of the Republican Party in the 1850s and briefly broke with the party over corruption in the Grant Administration)
1868: Grant
1864: Lincoln
1860: Lincoln
1856: Fremont

See a pattern here? Not a single Democrat, until now. No FDR. No JFK. No LBJ in 1964. There is not a more Republican newspaper in America than the Chicago Tribune.

The historic nature of this endorsement was clearly not lost on the Editorial Page staff, which noted:

This endorsement makes some history for the Chicago Tribune. This is the first time the newspaper has endorsed the Democratic Party’s nominee for president.

The Tribune in its earliest days took up the abolition of slavery and linked itself to a powerful force for that cause–the Republican Party. The Tribune’s first great leader, Joseph Medill, was a founder of the GOP. The editorial page has been a proponent of conservative principles. It believes that government has to serve people honestly and efficiently.

Repeatedly comparing Obama to Lincoln himself, the Trib adds:

When Obama said at the 2004 Democratic Convention that we weren’t a nation of red states and blue states, he spoke of union the way Abraham Lincoln did.

It may have seemed audacious for Obama to start his campaign in Springfield, invoking Lincoln. We think, given the opportunity to hold this nation’s most powerful office, he will prove it wasn’t so audacious after all. We are proud to add Barack Obama’s name to Lincoln’s in the list of people the Tribune has endorsed for president of the United States.

I have to confess that the Tribune’s endorsement of Obama in the 2004 Democratic Senate primary first swayed me to Obama; the Trib endorses primary candidates in both parties and occasional Democrats in non-Presidential races. They noticed at the time Obama’s intellect and temperament. I was hooked then and I still am.

It’s hard to imagine a more stunning endorsement than this one. Again, it is Obama’s hometown paper. But that hasn’t swayed the Tribune before. The Editorial Staff at the Tribune actually knows Obama and trusts him. This endorsement will matter to moderate Republicans who share the Tribune’s editorial leanings (the paper was very conservative until the paper passed from Col. McCormick’s hands in 1969; it became a more moderate Republican paper since). I can’t think of a more valuable endorsement to Obama right now than this.

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  • kritt11

    The fat lady is on the stage and her mouth is open.

  • Jim_Satterfield

    I can’t wait for the McCain/Republican rejoinder about how the Tribune has bought into the cult of personality and the empty suit. Oh, and the L.A. Times too.

  • mlhradio

    Jim – No need to wait – check out the various message boards (especially the Chicago Tribune’s own) for the rabid foaming-at-the-mouth denunciations from the far right. They turned on the Tribune in a blink of an eye. Not surprising, but it is breathtaking how deep the depths the blind loyalty runs in the Republican ranks.

    The good news is — this conservative chunk of America is not quite so monolithic as it once was. It’s refreshing to watch as more and more intelligent Republicans have been waking up over these past few years. They may not be the happy Democrat supporters we would like, but they understand the need for a more balanced government, and that the pendulum has swung way too far to the right, and it’s time to restore order.

  • mlhradio

    …and the hits keep rolling in. Two more papers that endorsed Bush in 2004 have flipped and are now endorsing Obama in 2008: The Denver Post and the Salt Lake Tribune. The smell of victory is overpowering!

  • mlhradio

    More, more, more…

    La Opinion, the largest daily Spanish-language paper (circulation 121,000), endorses Obama:

    Similarly, El Diario/La Prensa, the largest daily Spanish language paper in New York, endorsed Obama as well:

    The Kansas City Star (circulation 260,000) endorses Obama:

    Also Obama will get the nod from the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Sunday (circulation 357,000):

    Current list of newspaper endorsements here:,_2008

  • pacatrue

    It would be nice to know the timing and polling in previous races, however. Did the possible Illinoisan endorsements come as late as this and when one candidate had a lead? Most corporations give money to the party who’s in charge. Maybe the Trib just thinks Obama’s likely going to be in charge. (I’m not convinced yet myself.)

  • Marlowecan

    Ah, you liberals.

    This is just what I have been saying. Conservative opinion today is not nearly so monolithic as . . . say . . . liberal opinion.

    Can any of you imagine the New York Times endorsing a Republican?

    Can any of you imagine the New York Times actually saying something positive about a Republican candidate in an editorial – without equivocation or being a backhanded compliment?

    Of course not.

    That said…both the Tribune and the Sun-Times have endorsed Obama. That is important . . . as neither paper fell under the sway of what John Kass termed “Hopium”.

    The Chicago papers were relentless critical of Obama . . . when the rest of the MSM was in its schoolgirl crush, and did not dare even ask Obama a question. The Chicago papers pounded Obama about Rezko . . . a topic largely verboten in the media in the rest of the country.

    Remember Obama’s famous line: “C’mon guys, I’ve answered like eight questions.”

    That was to reporters for Chicago papers, who were pressuring Obama to talk about Rezko…to answer questions….which – as Obama’s response indicates – was something no other member of the media dared to do with Obama back in March.

    Thus, as Elrod says, these endorsements carry weight . . . far more than the predictable New York Times template “fill in the blank” endorsement of a Democrat.

    Barring mischance, Obama will be president in 2009.

  • dukeoconnor

    Here’s the list of NYT endorsements:

    2004 October 17 John Kerry
    2000 October 29 Albert Gore, Jr.
    1996 October 27 William J. Clinton
    1992 October 25 William J. Clinton
    1988 October 30 Michael Dukakis
    1984 October 28 Walter Mondale
    1980 October 26 Jimmy Carter
    1976 October 24 Jimmy Carter
    1972 September 28 George McGovern
    1968 October 6 Hubert H. Humphrey
    1964 November 1 Lyndon B. Johnson
    1960 October 27 John F. Kennedy
    1956 October 16 Dwight D. Eisenhower
    1952 October 23 Dwight D. Eisenhower
    1948 October 3 Thomas Dewey
    1944 October 16 Franklin D. Roosevelt
    1940 October 24 Wendell Willkie
    1936 October 1 Franklin D. Roosevelt
    1932 November 6 Franklin D. Roosevelt
    1928 October 18 NY Times states “Happy with Either”
    (Hoover or Smith)
    1924 November 2 NY Times declined to endorse
    1920 November 2 no specific endorsement although the Editorial is highly critical of the Republicans
    1916 October 21 Woodrow Wilson
    1912 November 5 Woodrow Wilson
    1908 October 20 William Howard Taft
    1904 August 31 Theodore Roosevelt
    1900 October 11 William McKinley
    1896 October 20 William McKinley

  • kritt11

    Marlowe, Marlowe, Marlowe,( sigh).

    You must be joking.

    Look at poor Christopher Buckley who was hounded out of his position at National Review for having the temerity to endorse not only a liberal, but one who purportedly hangs out with washed up terrorists.

    What about poor Mort Kondracke who was attacked by his cohorts at Fox for daring to break with the pack of wolves and actually be “fair and balanced” about Joe the unlicensed Plumber?

    Or the barrage of angry e-mails sent to Kathleen Parker for her chutzpah in questioning Palin’s readiness to be a heartbeat away.

    Marlowe, Marlowe, Marlowe (sigh).

  • rudi

    Komrad Marlow – Tell that to Buckley and Parker at NRO. For all those who believed MSM ignored the Ayers story; this local paper vetted the story and still endorsed the “palling around” Muslim Husein Obama.

    • Marlowecan

      My Bolshie friends Rudi and Kritt…

      “Poor” Chris Buckley was hardly “hounded” out of the National Review. He initially played it as such, in an unfortunately titled (later revised), piece at Tina Brown’s Beast. But his ideological perspective was discordant with the magazine’s in general.

      Actually, the examples you guys point out reinforce my point. There are apostates on the Right. Name me apostates on the American Left.

      Rudi, the MSM has largely ignored the Ayers story. Stanley Kurtz was the first (and I believe still only) person from the MSM to access the Annenberg Challenge Files. When the NYT et al flew reporters to godforsaken towns in Alaska, no expense spared, these documents sat in the heart of Chicago.

      If there was a real connection between Obama and Ayers, it would have been in there.

      Turns out, of course, there wasn’t a connection. But the MSM didn’t know that.
      They just decided not to look.

  • elrod

    Duke O’Connor,
    Thanks for the NYT list. I didn’t know the Times became monolithically Democratic only in 1960.

    The Times actually started out as a conservative Republican paper in the 1850s. Conservative Republican back then is like conservative Democrat today. It ran against the dominant ideological strain of the new Republican Party at the time, but was very pro-business. In reality, the Times, under Henry Raymond, was more of a Whig paper than a Radical Republican paper. You can see that legacy right up to the McKinley endorsements. The Chicago Tribune, by contrast, was a real Radical Republican organ.

    When Sulzberger took over the Times and made it into the “Grey Lady,” the paper moved toward the Progressive wing of the GOP – although it went to Wilson in 1912. By the 1920s it had become disaffected with laissez-fair Republicanism.

  • GeorgeSorwell

    Marlowe is not joking.

    All newspapers are nothing but mainstream media. It doesn’t matter if a newspaper mostly supports Republicans. If it turns around and decides to support a Democrat instead, the ability to dismiss it is built right in to the mindset.

    There’s an alternative media that includes Fox News and the National Review. That’s why it matters when Kondracke or Parker go off the reservation.

    But no one cares about newspaper endorsements anymore.

    No fat lady is going to sing after reading the editorial page.

    • Marlowecan


      You are generally right…most newspaper endorsements are irrelevant.

      Elrod’s reference to the Chicago papers’ endorsement is, however, VERY important.

      The Chicago papers have been Obama’s toughest critics in the MSM. They also know Obama . . . and the political machine he came from . . . far better than anyone.

      For them to endorse Obama for President means something.

      Elrod . . . your comment about how Palin “disqualified” McCain among even Republican leaning papers is reflective of the diversity of conservative opinion.

      Many conservatives were very upset with the Palin pick. I have defended Palin against unjust attacks . . . but the thought of her being VP I find very unsettling.

      (Excellent post/thread, btw Elrod. Very informative.)

  • elrod

    I think newspaper reversals are important because they validate larger thinking.

    Notice the common thread in every Obama endorsement: Sarah Palin.

    McCain’s VP pick has simply disqualified him in each of these editorials – including the normally Republican ones.

    You hear the same thing from smart Republican pundits like Brooks, Frum and Krauthammer too.

    Palin meant putting the campaign before country.

  • kritt11

    Elrod- great comment and one that is so true. That’s exactly when McCain’s cynicism and uber ambition were revealed.

    He rushed to name his VP right after the Dem Convention to break up their momentum, having met her once.

    Which begs the question- does more experience really lead to better judgment? McCain, Cheney and Nixon are/were experienced pols– Lincoln, Obama and Kennedy are/were relatively inexperienced.

    • Marlowecan

      Kritt said: “Does more experience really lead to better judgment? McCain, Cheney and Nixon are/were experienced pols– Lincoln, Obama and Kennedy {PALIN} are/were relatively inexperienced.”

      That is a million dollar question, isn’t it Kritt.

      My insertion of “Palin” into your quote highlights its relevance.

      The key issue in elections, I would argue, is “character”.

      Obama really has nada experience. But he has impressed a lot of people with his character. His calm, cool discipline. His respect for others.

      I was very impressed by Barack Obama at the height of the financial crisis. He was at the White House, at Bush’s invitation, and he didn’t swan about. He knew his place as a junior senator, there only as a courtesy of the president.

      John Kerry or HRC would have rushed the cameras, to pronounce this or that. McCain, in fact, did that. Obama didn’t. As Obama said, he did not have the authority or power to do anything.

      What politician would have resisted the spotlight like that? Impressive. The most discipined Democratic politician in generations.

      • kritt11

        Marlowe-You may be on to something.

        I would argue that Obama’s temperment has been the key to his rapid rise to
        power. He is able to work as a consensus-builder rather than by

        Republicans love to nominate tough fighters like Palin and McCain- those
        who say they want to kick ass, because they never have gotten over their
        infatuation with John Wayne.Conservatives eat all of that up.

        But, at this time the country is weary of confrontation and voters finally
        realize that dividing the country into two warring factions will not solve
        our problems. A consensus builder/concilliator is what is exciting us. (that
        is also why Clinton — a good politician but a polarizing one- did not catch
        on fire while Obama did)

  • SteveK

    Ah, you Canadians… you’re all alike.

    My, it’s easier to generalize than I thought. :-}

  • Jim_Satterfield

    Actually, Marlowecan, they took the less expensive and time consuming route of speaking to other people in Chicago who know what went on back then with the Annenberg grants, Democrat and Republican alike. When all sides agreed there was no incipient scandal and that the claims of the Republican scaremongers were completely overblown they decided to cut their losses.

  • continuum

    The ability of neocon Republicans to live in their own little fantasy world is truly astounding.

    While the majority of the American people have recognized the greed, corruption, lies, hypocrisy, cronyism, and general incompentence of the last 12 years of Republican governance, the neocon Republicans choose to continue their own delusions.

    The neocons always invent some reason to live their fantasy. No happenstance is ever their responsibility. It is always the some other guy’s fault.

    The neocons lie not only to the American people, but also to themselves.

    Their justified fall from power is well earned.

    The neocon Republicans have become a sad footnote to the history of the United States.

  • kritt11

    Name me apostates on the American Left.

    Marlowe- you asked for it!
    Joe Lieberman – a biggie- who went from being named the VP candidate on the Gore ticket to campaigning actively for McCain , and who was a heartbeat away from being named the VP candidate on the McCain ticket.

    (this was only avoided due to Bill Kristol who urged McCain to go with a conservative– though why anyone with an ounce of sense would listen to a washed-up pundit who’s wrong more than he’s right is a head-scratcher!)

    Obama should send him a thank-you note because Palin is the gift that keeps on giving to the Democratic Party.
    BTW- if McCain loses will he consider switching parties again??? I think that Obama should have broadcast ads on FNC recalling McCain’s negotiations to become Kerry’s VP- that would go over great with the Nascar crowd!

  • GeorgeSorwell


    I hear what you’re saying, and I think it’s true enough. And it’s true that the Chicago Tribune is pro-Republican. Perhaps this endorsement will move some more moderate Republicans toward Obama.

    But what I’m saying is that the base’s response to it is already baked right into the process.

    From a political standpoint, it’s really kind of awesome.

    But from a policy standpoint, you get what we’ve gotten these past eight years.

    As with so much of our political process, the impediments are structural.

  • Ricorun

    Marlowecan: Actually, the examples you guys point out reinforce my point. There are apostates on the Right. Name me apostates on the American Left.

    Do they have to be recent? If so, why? Here’s why I ask: I suspect that apostates come out of the woodwork only when a candidate on either side really melts down. That doesn’t happen very often. So maybe your question implies a level of equivalence that isn’t appropriate.

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