Does a New Hampshire’s Paper’s Endorsement Change Things Bigtime for Newt Gingrich?
Does endorsement of the conservative New Hampshire Union Leader of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich greatly improve his chances in the New Hampshire Republican Primary? Here’s Bob Stein’s always insightful take. And here are two more.
Yes, newspapers work very hard on their political endorsements, summoning candidates to be interrogated by their self-important board members, who are typically just collecting quotes to back up the decisions they’ve already made before the meetings. The editorials are honed and polished more carefully than usual in case some subscribers read them.
Yes, political campaigns collect newspaper endorsements like gold coins. Yes, the media write about the endorsements as if they were news. (Since they usually publish Saturday night, there’s less competition.) Yes, you will see a praiseful editorial phrase in a candidate’s ads.
Now, here’s what newspaper political endorsements of candidates actually mean: bupkus. (Translation for California, de nada).
When’s the last time you followed a general newspaper’s editorial advice on anything above traffic judge or what movie to see?
Of course, Romney wanted the paper’s endorsement. He’s way ahead in the state’s polls, but he’s wooed UL management for years. Typically pols meet/dine with execs and editors to share their private thoughts and ask advice. Newspaper people are total suckers for anything packaged as insider thinking.
Obviously, Team Romney’s efforts didn’t work in terms of winning the endorsement, although chances are they helped account for the lack of any direct criticism or mention of him in the Gingrich proclamation.
And that’s the real import of the editorial. From the pulpit of Manchester, N.H. the Sunday editorial appears to confirm Gingrich as the official, last-chance non-Romney Republican candidate in New Hampshire and beyond. If you’re among the dwindling few still seeking same. That, combined with the former speaker’s new campaign hires there, should be good for some kind of Gingrich bump in upcoming polls.
Malcolm and Red State’s Neil Stevens note that the paper’s endorsements have not exactly led to victories by those who got them in recent years.
Indeed: I used to be a full-time reporter for the San Deigo Union, which in those days was owned by Copley Press. I’d read the editorials and if the editorial endorsed a candidate I was leaning towards — I’d re-evalaute my decision and it’s logic.
I’ve seen numerous analyses that have questioned the importance of the endorsement on the grounds that The Union Leader has endorsed a losing candidate on many occasions (for instance, Steve Forbes in 2000 and Pete du Pont in 1987). It is probably good to be skeptical about the value of newspaper endorsements overall, especially at a time of declining circulation and increasing competition in the media space.
These analyses, however, leave something to be desired. The problem is that they do not consider how a candidate performed relative to expectations. A candidate who zoomed up to 15 percent from 5 percent in the polls after The Union Leader’s endorsement would testify to the fact that it was potentially important, even if the candidate did not win the state. Conversely, a candidate who had been dominating the state and was at 55 percent in the polls, but who won the state by only a narrow margin after The Union Leader’s endorsement, would not be a mark in its favor.
What I’ve done, therefore, is compare how the Republican candidate endorsed by The Union Leader finished in each of the past six competitive New Hampshire primaries compared with how he was polling at the time of the endorsement. By default, I use an average of all statewide polls conducted in the three weeks before the endorsement, although there were no polls within this window in the 1980 and 1996 cycles, so I use the first poll just after the endorsement instead. I do not consider races before 1980, as we have no New Hampshire polls for those years in our database.
As it happens, although only three of the six Republicans endorsed by The Union Leader during this period won their primary, all six outperformed their polling. Mr. du Pont, for instance, finished with a fairly meager 11 percent of the vote in 1988 — but this was better than his 4 percent standing in the polls at the time of the endorsement.
I should note, however, that on average candidates have some tendency to improve in the actual voting from their poll standing because the polls include undecided voters, whereas everyone who actually votes will have to choose a candidate. To correct for this, as well as to check whether the results could be attributable to random noise, I ran a simple regression analysis that explains a candidate’s share of the vote in New Hampshire as a function of whether or not he was endorsed by The Union Leader and his polling average at the time. The sample consists of all Republican candidates who (i) were included in at least one New Hampshire poll at the time of the endorsement and (ii) officially ran for president at some point during this cycle.
This analysis finds that The Union Leader’s endorsement has been highly statistically significant in helping to explain the voting results. Consistent with the simpler averaging method that we used before, it pegs the endorsement as having roughly an 11-percentage-point impact
In other words: if the endorsement doesn’t put Gingrich over the top, it could continue to make him the strongest “Anti-Romney” yet and keep the nomination battle going a lot longer than many who deliver the conventional wisdom now assume.
OF RELATED INTEREST:
—MSNBC’s First Read:
*** Track record vs. momentum: By the way, the Union Leader’s track record for picking NOMINEES is mixed, but its ability to generate momentum for a candidate in the state is worth a lot. The top story right now on the paper’s web site: “GOP candidates react to endorsement of Gingrich.”
*** A few “just askins” to ponder: Because Gingrich and Romney have “M.A
D.” (Mutually Assured Destruction)-type negatives, does it mean neither is ready to go nuclear on the other? And if that’s the case, who does end up doing the job on TV? Gingrich may have the “K Street” address, but does Team Romney want a compare/contrast with Gingrich going back to 1994? Gingrich on the trail in Oct. ’94 vs. Romney on the trail in Oct. ’94? How have the two candidates with the most traditional presidential candidate resumes (Santorum and Huntsman) not seen a boomlet of any kind? Or did we answer that question with the word “traditional”? While the goal first and foremost for Romney is to WIN the nomination any way he can, doesn’t he need to go long? If he wins early and ends the race, doesn’t the vacuum become a bigger problem as Romney actually won’t feel ready to pivot to the center too quickly?
Newt Gingrich went after candidates who “adopt radically different positions” Monday, positioning himself as a “conservative alternative” to fellow contender Mitt Romney in the race for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.
Speaking to Charleston, South Carolina radio station WSC, Gingrich said his record was stronger, and more consistent, than the record of the former Massachusetts governor.
“There needs to be a solid conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, and I’m the one candidate that can bring together a national security conservative, and economic conservative, and social conservative, to make sure we have a conservative nominee,” said the former House Speaker.
He continued, “I wouldn’t lie to the American people, I wouldn’t switch my position for political reason. It’s perfectly reasonable to change positions if you see new things you didn’t see. Everybody does that, Ronald Reagan did that. If you go around and adopt radically different positions based on need for any one election, people will ask, ‘What will you tell me next time?'”
Speaking for the first time about Sunday’s high-profile endorsement from the New Hampshire Union Leader, Gingrich said it put his campaign in a new competitive mode in the Granite State.
“I think we can have a very serious race with Mitt Romney in New Hampshire, and people didn’t think that was possible,” Gingrich said.
As for the characterization of him as “by no means a perfect candidate” by the newspaper’s editorial writer, Gingrich said no politician could achieve perfection.
“I think anybody who is honest about it says no person is ever perfect,” Gingrich said. “I don’t claim to be the perfect candidate, I just claim to be a lot more conservative than Mitt Romney and a lot more electable than anybody else.”
Say what you want about the demise of the American newspaper, more than a few people paid attention to yesterday’s New Hampshire Union Leader.
What everyone wanted to read was the paper’s endorsement of Newt Gingrich, which breathed more new life into a candidacy that was just a few months ago declared all-but-dead. Gingrich’s steady climb in the polls has yet to be cut short by a spate of negative pre-Thanksgiving press or the candidate’s controversial remarks about immigration at last week’s presidential debate.
The Republicans in New Hampshire know Romney about as well as anyone, since a lot of that state gets Massachusetts media. Now that Newt is raising front-runner money, he’s putting staff into New Hampshire, and if he can take a moment from his book tour to do some actual campaigning, the “sane” crew that’s been sticking with Mitt will have the opportunity to take another taste of essence of Newt. Of course, for the same reason that I was rooting for Cain, I’ve changed my fickle allegiance to the former Speaker, since he would be much easier to beat than Romney. I expect this ridiculous man-child to implode in the next few days, but if he doesn’t, New Hampshire might live up to their reputation as a bellwether.