Monday, November 28, 2011
COMMENTARY | The Manchester Union-Leader, the influential newspaper in the first in the nation primary state of New Hampshire, has given its much sought-after endorsement to Newt Gingrich, granting his campaign a boost in a state dominated by his rival, Mitt Romney.
The Union-Leader endorsement can have an effect of the results of the New Hampshire Primary. It endorsed John McCain in 2008. McCain went on to edge Romney 37 percent to 31 percent. It endorsed Ronald Reagan in 1980, that year's winner of the primary and eventual nominee and winner in the general election. Pat Buchanan, who got the endorsement in 1992 and 1996, made a shocking strong showing against then-President George H.W. Bush in the former year and won the primary in 1996.
However, the newspaper endorsed Steve Forbes in 2000. Forbes came in a distant third.
Romney, who was governor of neighboring Massachusetts, remains in a strong poll position at about 40 percent. Gingrich is running third at 11 percent, behind Romney and Rep. Ron Paul. But with memories of 2008, losing a primary he had counted on winning, Romney cannot be happy with losing out on the Union-Leader's endorsement. A loss or a close first in the Jan. 10 primary would be devastating for Romney's hope of making a second time a charm.
Gingrich, who is surging in Iowa and nationwide, has gotten an undoubted boost to his campaign to be the conservative alternative to Romney. The flap over his somewhat soft view on illegal immigration has generated a lot of noise in the media and on the campaign trail, but it has not yet eaten into his poll numbers.
The endorsement is bad news to Gingrich's rivals on the right: Rick Perry. Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, each of whom might have benefited from such a nod. A win by Gingrich in Iowa and a win or good second-place showing in New Hampshire could give him just enough momentum to propel him through South Carolina and Florida, knocking out the others, setting himself up to confront Romney alone. Romney, who has never cracked above 25 percent, would be the likely loser in such a contest.
Front-runner status also translates to more donations and more volunteers. That in turn adds up to a campaign that is on a roll and may be unstoppable.