The influential New Hampshire conservative newspaper, the Union Leader, endorsed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for president a month before the nation’s “first-in-the-nation” primary on Jan. 10, one week after the nation’s first nominating contest in Iowa on Jan. 3.
“A lot of candidates say they’re going to improve Washington,” wrote Joseph McQuaid, publisher of the Union Leader. “Newt Gingrich has actually done that, and in this race he offers the best shot of doing it again.”
On C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal,” McQuaid said that the editorial board came to the conclusion weeks ago in choosing Gingrich that America needed a candidate that would “grab the moment” and “not be a manager,” which is a shot at Mitt Romney, whose opponents and critics have said he would be a manager of the status quo without offering the bold change conservatives are looking for in their nominee.
“America is at a crucial crossroads,” the Union Leader wrote. “It is not going to be enough to merely replace Barack Obama next year. We are in critical need of the innovative, forward-looking strategy and positive leadership that Gingrich has shown he is capable of providing.”
The Union Leader also wrote that though “Newt Gingrich is by no means the perfect candidate,” Republican primary voters too often make the mistake of preferring an unattainable ideal to the best candidate who is actually running.”
Gingrich “has the experience, the leadership qualities and the vision to lead this country in these trying times.,” wrote the Union Leader. “He is worthy of your support on January 10.”
McQuaid, on C-SPAN, said “Newt has grown up,” is a “great student of history,” “doesn’t suffer fools gladly.”
McQuaid also said that Newt’s “not afraid to speak his mind,” “has a “wealth of knowledge in foreign affairs,” and has “learned to bite his ample tongue.”
The GOP presidential race is fluid in New Hampshire as it is across the nation. While Mitt Romney is the heavy front-runner, only 16 percent of New Hampshire voters indicated in a recent survey that they have firmly made up their minds.
And while the Union Leader’s endorsement has had a mixed track record in the past and has no effect in Iowa, it may matter more in this cycle, which is unlike any other, because it can give conservatives outside of New Hampshire who are still on the fence on Gingrich a reason to go into his camp.
Gingrich, who has just recently begun to build up his organization in New Hampshire as his fundraising and poll numbers have improved, will now have a month to try to turn the endorsement and the requisite buzz his campaign will get from it into primary votes.