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October 27, 2012 5:18 PM Could These Newspaper Endorsements Clinch it for Romney?

By Simon van Zuylen-Wood

During President Obama’s off-again, on-again, interview relationship with the Des Moines Register this week, I couldn’t help but wonder why the brouhaha was making news. (Well, one reason was clear: journalists tend to think the opinions of other journalists are worth writing about.) Like the media’s insistence upon covering the shifting time slots of late-night talk shows, focusing on newspaper endorsements seems rather anachronistic. What use does a polarized electorate have for editorial boards, when it receives its news in large part from social media, partisan websites, and television shows? And those mysterious low-information voters who haven’t made up their minds? I’d wager they aren’t relying upon newspapers to do so.

That said, a 2008 paper by two economists from Brown University suggests newspaper endorsements can in fact change voters’ minds. If a liberal paper endorses a liberal candidate, no substantial change is registered. The paper’s readership, is, after all, liberal. A moderate paper, on the other hand, has more credibility among voters. When the Chicago Sun-Times and the Denver Post endorsed Kerry and Bush, respectively, the study registered that three percent of readers switched its voting allegiance. That effect was likely boosted by the fact that the Sun-Times and the Post had flipped their own allegiances from 2000.

With that in mind, two newspaper endorsements in particular could prove unusually important this election. According to the American Presidency Project at the University of California-Santa Barbara, seven of the country’s top 100 newspapers have flipped from Obama in 2008 to Romney this year, and one from McCain to Obama. (Many haven’t released endorsements yet.) Three are in Texas, two are in California, and one is in Tennessee, all states that are decided. The remaining two, however, the Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Orlando Sentinel, are located in an all-important swing state. Moderate papers that endorsed Democrat Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate, each made lukewarm jobs-related arguments for Romney. Which might be enough to convince economy-focused swing voters who are unsure about the Republican candidate.

*Update: Make the Des Moines Register the third swing-state, moderate newspaper to flip from Obama to Romney this year.

Simon van Zuylen-Wood is a writer for Philadelphia Magazine.

Comments

  • David Carlton on October 27, 2012 5:58 PM:

    It needs to be pointed out that one of those endorsements was by the Tennessean of Nashville--the hometown paper I long since stopped subscribing to because of its pathetic decline. Their "endorsement" of Romney this time out (the first time in memory that this once Democratic newspaper actually endorsed a Republican) was the very picture of tepidity; neither candidate impresses us, but we'll go with Romney because he represents change--we're not at all sure what change he'll bring, but we're going to gamble that he's Moderate Mitt. In other words, we're clueless, so we'll roll the dice. I can't imagine this endorsement swaying anybody.

  • jjm on October 27, 2012 6:19 PM:

    How on earth is Romney supposed to be good for jobs? This is the guy who pioneered offshoring ours.

    His former colleague at Bain, Edward Conard, has written a book on the great joys of offshoring (keeps the riff-raff working class out of our territory, lowering crime and litter, and not burdening our health and safety nets. Read his book!) He also bemoans the fact that too many people in America have salaries that are insulated (his word) from being offshored and are therefore much harder to manipulate into being lowered to third world standard (nurses, teachers, firefighters -- recognize the pattern anyone?)

    Ask Romney what he thinks a good, middle class salary is. One of this advisors thought the middle class began at $200,000 / year. The jobs Romney created at Staples go for $18,000/yr.

    Fools who vote for these guys are either already rich and wanting not to pay their fair share. Or else they are so mesmerized by the snake oil salesman they can't see straight.

  • wilder on October 27, 2012 6:50 PM:

    Sure. The way all those newspaper endorsements clinched it for President Kerry.

  • mudwall jackson on October 27, 2012 7:06 PM:

    i'll second wilder. kerry received a majority of newspaper endorsements in my state (florida) and of course he lost. who knows, maybe without the endorsements kerry picks up even fewer votes. but i doubt it.

    a well thought out argument in an endorsement might sway a few votes but most people don't read them in the first place.

  • Quaker in a Basement on October 27, 2012 7:09 PM:

    Now I'll admit that my days at the U of Fla journalism school are far, far behind me, but in those days, the "Slantinal" was not a moderate newspaper, even by Florida standards.

  • jharp on October 27, 2012 7:10 PM:

    Huh?

    Obama doesn't need to win Florida.

    By the way typing in the two words is a big pain in the ass.

  • Lee on October 27, 2012 7:11 PM:

    I think you're overselling this. Maybe those could tip Florida, which was already leaning Romney, decisively into his column. Maybe. But Obama would still have more plausible routes to victory than Romney.

  • exfl on October 27, 2012 7:25 PM:

    The Orlando Sentinel has always slanted to the right. The Sun-Sentinel has been sold and apparently the new owners are less liberal than Broward County is.

  • hildebrand on October 27, 2012 7:43 PM:

    Good god, this sounds like the worst form of TNR style concern trolling and pearl clutching - may as well slink right down into that defensive crouch or fetal position while you are at it. The days of newspaper endorsements mattering is long gone - cable news and the internet have successfully killed off any significant influence they had. Yeesh.

  • LAC on October 27, 2012 7:54 PM:

    I get this concern trolling every time I look at the Washington post. ("How does being blackity black don't talk back hurt Obama? Romney says something and we believe him. ") do I really need it here too?

  • AndThenThere'sThat on October 27, 2012 7:59 PM:

    The remaining two, however, the Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Orlando Sentinel, are located in an all-important swing state.

    Florida is already tilting 65% Romney this cycle anyway.

    @jjm 6:19

    Beats the hell out of me too. One candidate literally brought us back from the very brink of catastrophe. Worldwide credit meltdown. Dow sloughing off 7,570 points. All 3 of the big domestic car manufacturers staring down extinction. God, it was bad. We've come pretty damn far off that low. Meanwhile the other candidate has a private sector history of stealing pensions and offshoring jobs, a middling to downright abysmal 4-year track record as governor, and treats us all like f*#king children with his clownish "5 point plan".
    Romney promises to make us 100% energy independent in a mere four years. He knows how to do that! He'll also tell China to stop being meanies, and get our schools working again by slashing their funding. Oh, AND, he'll tackle the runaway deficit by shoveling tax breaks at rich folk and bloating the military budget even more! Lastly, he'll get business up and running again with his vague talk of magic mojo. (Of course, the stock market is already soaring. Business profits seem to be doing fine. There's just slow hiring caused by anemic economic expansion. i.e. A lot of government employees are laid off and everybody else in the middleclass no longer makes enough money to buy sh@t.) Romney is a transparent fraud. I'm surprised he hasn't started promising everyone a dressage pony for their vote. He's just peddling a rerun of the oughts and yet 48+% of Americans are saying, "hmmmmm, I like the sound of this guy. He's pretty sharp".

  • magurakurin on October 27, 2012 8:50 PM:

    Why are you pimping the horse race meme and what have you done with Ed Kilgore? If I wanted to read things like this I would start reading Matthew Iglesias again.

    Here's a tip: A week before a major national election, you cheer for your team, no matter what. Because losing sucks. Big time. So stuff your non-partisan "both sides do it" wanna be Villager act deep into your totebag and pull the fucking lever with the big D on it and go out in the street and cheer "Obama, Obama, Obama."

    get it?

  • warehousemanalive on October 27, 2012 8:59 PM:

    The three papers in Texas will have no effect on the election. Texas was always going to be as red as Rudolph’s nose with or without those endorsements. As the last surviving democrat in the entire Lone Star State I can say unequivocally that ignominy lives a long life in this political backwater.

  • Joe Friday on October 27, 2012 9:27 PM:

    "When the Chicago Sun-Times and the Denver Post endorsed Kerry and Bush, respectively, the study registered that three percent of readers switched its voting allegiance."

    I don't see how.

    Most polling has a margin-of-error of 3%, 3.5%, or even 4%, so we don't know that the "voting allegiance" went anywhere.

  • Art Hackett on October 27, 2012 9:36 PM:

    The Register is operating on the theory that Romney will cure "Obama Derangement Syndrome." CEO's are holding back on investing only because they fear a return to Clinton era tax level...at least the ones that don't fear a full bore Soviet revolution. The help wanted ads are dummied up in the back room, ready for publication the day after the election.
    Congressional Republicans aren't crazy right wingers. They just act that way because Obama's in the White House. Under President Romney, the Republican congressional leadership will be able to embrace moderate members because they're no longer terrified of being sent to a Gulag on Chicago's south side. Maybe they're right. On the other hand, Iowa's bordered by rivers on two sides. I'd advise the editorial board to avoid folks trying to sell you the bridges.

  • castanea on October 27, 2012 10:01 PM:

    "Here's a tip: A week before a major national election, you cheer for your team, no matter what."

    Exactly. I'm still amazed by the pearl-clutching by apparent liberals and liberal-leaning blogs this close to the election.

    What we all should be clamoring for are the heads of GOPers on pikes in our front yard.

  • Anonymous on October 27, 2012 10:58 PM:

    lol @ magurakurin Why are you pimping the horse race meme and what have you done with Ed Kilgore? If I wanted to read things like this I would start reading Matthew Iglesias again. Totally Agree except I want to say how much I miss Steve Benen!

    The Des Moines Register also endored Steven King and said "romney was an effective gov in Mass" With a 34% polling when he left? Yeah, right.

    Tells me something really stupid has gotten ahold of that Paper and the people who buy into it.

  • Cha on October 27, 2012 11:01 PM:

    lol @ magurakurin Why are you pimping the horse race meme and what have you done with Ed Kilgore? If I wanted to read things like this I would start reading Matthew Iglesias again. Totally Agree except I want to say how much I miss Steve Benen!

    The Des Moines Register also endored Steven King and said "romney was an effective gov in Mass" With a 34% polling when he left? Yeah, right.

    Tells me something really stupid has gotten ahold of that Paper and the people who buy into it.

    I'm not Anonymous..must have left off my name.. It's worth repeating.

  • Cha on October 27, 2012 11:12 PM:

    Well, I just read I got that wrong about the DMR endorsing Steve King. They endorsed Christy Vilsack which is good but they still wrote that mitt was an effective gov of Mass which is a damn lie.

  • Hue and Cry on October 28, 2012 1:14 AM:

    It is orewellian that the populace believes that the man who bankrupted companies, took the pensions of working families, shipped jobs overseas along with the corporation from which he still derives billions of personal funds----stored in tax havens overseas-- has now looted yet another company in the Midwest in real time--as we speak-- shipping those American jobs to China. A story ignored by all but Ed Shultz.
    The candidate who wants tax breaks for billionares and will not define his policies.
    The candidate who said he'd exploit any foreign policy issue for political gain, who condemned 50% of the country as loser parasites---this is the guy they will elect??

    They think this guy will give them jobs? It is orwellian, plain and simple--like the citizenry.

  • Sparko on October 28, 2012 1:30 AM:

    This is stupid and irresponsible. No wonder I rarely visit this site on weekends. Wow. The frame alone should get you banned, let alone its insipid content. Newspapers are also about as important in 2012 as bayonets and horses. Maybe you should read Nate Silver and perhaps push back against the machine. . .

  • The rest of the world on October 28, 2012 4:57 AM:

    What Sparko and others said. Way to demoralise the base and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, for one thing.

  • bob h on October 28, 2012 6:27 AM:

    The endorsements are for "jobs", but they seem to have missed the fact that he has no credible macroeconomic policies for jobs.

  • emjayay on October 28, 2012 9:20 AM:

    Don't be ridiculous bob h. Romney has said he will create 12 million jobs about 12 million times.

  • Th on October 28, 2012 9:27 AM:

    The worst offense is to reward the Republicans for refusing to work with Obama. Way to make the US even more ungovernable.

  • John B. on October 28, 2012 9:41 AM:

    Endorse Romney or Perish

    The Pensacola News Journal -- like the Register, a Gannett property -- also endorsed Romney today. Both papers usually are ever so slightly left of center. Both endorsements are a surprise.

    Is Gannett threatening local editorial boards if they don't climb aboard? Does Gannett even have to do so, or are the local editors simply reading the employer tea leaves and figuring it out on their own -- "Endorse Romney or Perish?"

    Atlantic Monthly

    Can the company fire you for the way you vote?

  • mellowjohn on October 28, 2012 9:45 AM:

    opened my chicago tribune this morning and was gobsmacked to see they endorsed obama... again.
    in 2008, he was the first dem they had endorsed for president since the founding of the republican party in 1856! and, imo, their news coverage has been blatantly pro-romney all campaign.

  • elisabeth on October 28, 2012 11:24 AM:

    The local Gannett paper here in a little pocket of progressives in Eastern Iowa endorsed Obama -- perhaps fearing that the remaining subscribers would drop the paper if it went so far away from public opinion.

  • Joe Friday on October 28, 2012 12:00 PM:

    The Des Moines Register headline: MITT ROMNEY OFFERS A FRESH ECONOMIC VISION

    Only on Bizarro World.

    What the hell is "fresh" about failed massive tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit the Rich & Corporate and explode the federal debt by trillions ?

    We've seen this failed movie TWICE under Reagan and Chimpy Bush.

  • June on October 28, 2012 6:03 PM:

    In answer to the OP's question, the answer is simple:

    No.