N.H. Newspaper Endorsements Trickle In. But is Anyone Reading?

Jan 25, 2016

Newspapers in the two early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire have been issuing candidate endorsements in an accelerating flurry in recent days. But do those endorsements even matter anymore?

In recent days, Hillary Clinton has picked up the backing of the Concord Monitor and Boston Globe.

A handful of GOP endorsements have already been doled out. Chris Christie got the nod from the Union Leader back in November. More recently, John Kasich picked up the backing of the Nashua Telegraph, Foster’s Daily Democrat and the Portsmouth Herald. More endorsements will surely be published in coming days.

But in a media environment dominated by smartphones, cable news and partisan news outlets, does the old-fashioned, local newspaper endorsement mean anything?

Here’s a quick spin through recent history.

In the 2012 GOP primary, Mitt Romney won New Hampshire, but Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor, edged him out in the newspaper endorsement race. Huntsman got the backing of six state papers (seven, if you include the Boston Globe, and eight if you include the UNH student newspaper). Romney won five Granite State newspaper endorsements (six if you count the Boston Herald.)  

Huntsman finished a respectable third place in the primary that year, but ended his White House bid shortly thereafter.

But the plum endorsement that year, at least for Republicans, went to Newt Gingrinch, who finished the state in fifth place.

Four years earlier, in the 2008 GOP race, John McCain pretty much ran the table on newspaper endorsements, winning the Concord Monitor, the Nashua Telegraph, both Boston dailies and the Union Leader.

McCain went on to win the state’s primary fairly comfortably that year. Romney, the 2008 runner up, garnered no newspaper endorsements (though he did earn an unusual “anti-endorsement” from the editorial page of the Concord Monitor.)

The Democratic side of the ballot was a bit more balanced in the endorsement department that year. Hillary Clinton picked up five newspaper endorsements, while Barack Obama won four (including the Globe.)

But it’s difficult to discern any geographic sway from those endorsements: Clinton was backed by papers in several strongly pro-Obama towns like Keene and Concord. And Obama was endorsed by the Telegraph of Nashua, a city that Clinton carried by double digits.

Finally, looking back to 2000, the slate of endorsements on the GOP side was fairly uniform. McCain, then competing in his first New Hampshire Primary, earned the support of every state newspaper with the exception of the Union Leader (which endorsed Steve Forbes) and Foster’s Daily Democrat (which backed George Bush). McCain went on to trounce Bush at the ballot box on Primary Day.

Democrats that year had a tight race between Al Gore and Bill Bradley, through the endorsement race was less balanced: Bradley won the backing of 10 state papers, to Gore’s four. Gore won New Hampshire by 4 points.