The New Hampshire Union Leader, the state’s largest newspaper, endorsed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for the Republican presidential nomination Saturday night.
“We doubt that too many people across New Hampshire have politics front and center right now’’ wrote the paper’s publisher, Joe McQuaid. “But in just 10 weeks, New Hampshire will make a choice that will profoundly affect our country and the world. We better get it right.’’
“Our choice is Gov. Chris Christie,’’ McQuaid wrote.
The paper’s Christie endorsement included a not-so-veiled shot at Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has seen a recent wave of endorsements and a bump in the polls.
“We don’t need another fast-talking, well-meaning freshman U.S. senator trying to run the government,’’ McQuaid wrote. “We are still seeing the disastrous effects of the last such choice.’’
Despite having the largest circulation in the nation’s first primary state, the predictive power of the paper’s endorsement has been mixed. The Union Leader endorsed Newt Gingrich in 2012 and John McCain in 2008. Before that, the paper backed Steve Forbes in 2000, Pat Buchanan in 1996 and 1992, and Pierre du Pont in 1988.
“Christie is a solid, pro-life conservative who has managed to govern in liberal New Jersey, face down the big public unions, and win a second term,’’ McQuaid wrote. Though he’s eighth in the Republican field nationally, polling at a 3.0 percent average, Christie has fared slightly better in the Granite State — in seventh place in the polls at 5.3 percent.
Why UL endorsement is big: constant front page editorials in paper with biggest circulation. Can't buy that. And they can hit people too.— Barney Keller (@barneykeller) November 29, 2015
Potential impact, as Joe McQuaid once said, is that, "The Union Leader's style is we don't just endorse once. We endorse every damn day."— Matt Viser (@mviser) November 29, 2015
Perhaps the most famous impact the paper had on a presidential campaign was in 1972. Then-Union Leader publisher William Loeb torpedoed the campaign of Democratic frontrunner and Maine Sen. Edmund Muskie with a series of published attacks, including a planted letter from the Nixon White House.
This prompted to Muskie to give an emotional speech outside the paper’s offices in Manchester during a snowstorm, in which he called Loeb a “gutless coward.’’ Some reporters said Muskie had tears streaming down his face, though other — as well as campaign aides — maintained it was melting snow. Regardless, the event led to a disappointing performance for Muskie in the New Hampshire primary and the beginning of the end of his campaign.