Newt Gingrich got a potential boost to his Republican presidential primary campaign in New Hampshire by winning the endorsement of the Union Leader newspaper, six weeks before the Jan. 10 primary.
“We are in critical need of the innovative, forward- looking strategy and positive leadership that Gingrich has shown he is capable of providing,” New Hampshire’s largest newspaper said in its endorsement.
“He did so with the Contract with America,” the endorsement said. “He did it in bringing in the first Republican House in 40 years and by forging balanced budgets and even a surplus despite the political challenge of dealing with a Democratic president. A lot of candidates say they’re going to improve Washington. Newt Gingrich has actually done that, and in this race he offers the best shot of doing it again.”
Gingrich, 68, the former U.S. House speaker from Georgia, has been gaining in state and national polls in recent weeks, even as he has yet to build much of a campaign apparatus.
Four years ago, the paper endorsed John McCain. The U.S. senator from Arizona went on to win the New Hampshire primary and later the Republican nomination for president.
Still, the Union Leader has a mixed record on picking winners in the state’s primary.
In 2000, it endorsed Republican Steve Forbes. He finished third in the state’s primary.
The paper backed Ronald Reagan in 1980, the year he won the presidency. It also endorsed Reagan in 1976, when he lost the primary contest and the nomination to Gerald Ford.
It also supported Patrick Buchanan in 1992 and 1996. He failed to win the state’s primary in 1992 and won it in 1996.
“I think it reflects, more than anything else, the fluidity, the unpredictability of the race right now,” said Republican candidate Jon Huntsman, a former governor of Utah, on the “Fox News Sunday” program. “A month ago for Newt Gingrich to have been in the running to capture the Manchester Union Leader endorsement would have been unthinkable.”
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, 64, was the preferred choice of 40 percent of likely New Hampshire primary voters in a Bloomberg News poll conducted Nov. 10-12. Representative Ron Paul of Texas placed second at 17 percent, while Gingrich was at 11 percent. All the other candidates, including Huntsman, registered below 10 percent.
Andrew Cline, the newspaper’s editorial page editor, said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” yesterday that it was a “false assumption” that Romney would be more electable than Gingrich next year.
“Romney is a very play-it-safe candidate,” Cline said. “He wants to be liked,” he said, adding, “Imagine what that would be like as president.”
The New Hampshire primary will be held one week after the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. The two contests traditionally start the nomination process.
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