Election 2020

Christie Snags Endorsement of Top N.H. Paper, But Will It Matter?

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New Hampshire’s largest newspaper picked from a crowded field to anoint their pick for the first-in-the-nation GOP primary, but didn’t leave the editorial board’s losers unscathed in announcing their favorite.

The Union-Leader endorsement might give a shot to the campaign of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who’s polling at seventh in New Hampshire but is focusing his attention on the early state 10 weeks away from the vote.

“As a U.S. attorney and then a big-state governor, he is the one candidate who has the range and type of experience the nation desperately needs,” wrote the paper’s publisher, Joseph McQuaid.

“We don’t need another fast-talking, well-meaning freshman U.S. senator trying to run the government. We are still seeing the disastrous effects of the last such choice. Chris 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. Gov. Christie can work across the aisle, but he won’t get rolled by the bureaucrats. We don’t need as President some well-meaning person from the private sector who has no public experience.”

The editorial opined that “the one reason he may be best-suited to lead during these times is because he tells it like it is and isn’t shy about it.”

“Other candidates have gained public and media attention by speaking bluntly. But it’s important when you are telling it like it is to actually know what you are talking about. Gov. Christie knows what he is saying because he has experienced it. And unlike some others, he believes in what he says because he has a strong set of conservative values.”

The paper’s endorsements have a mixed track record of backing the eventual nominee. The Union-Leader endorsed Ronald Reagan in 1980 and John McCain in 2008. In 2012, the paper picked Newt Gingrich. In 2000, it was Steve Forbes. Gingrich was the only one who took a tumble in the primary after his endorsement — from 19 percent in the polls to a 9 percent finish.

Christie told CNN today that he was “thrilled” with the endorsement, which shows “that the work we’ve put in here in New Hampshire, the plans we’ve laid out — that people are taking them seriously and taking them to heart.”

Donald Trump currently leads the Real Clear Politics polling average in New Hampshire with 26 percent, followed by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) at 12.5 percent, Ben Carson at 10.5 percent, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) at 9.5 percent.

Trump tweeted today, “How is Chris Christie running the state of NJ, which is deeply troubled, when he is spending all of his time in NH? New Jerseyans not happy!”

“I’m happy to get the attention from Donald,” Christie said on the campaign trail in Portsmouth. “I’m happy to take whatever advice he has, you know, in 140 characters or less.”

Political prognosticators FiveThirtyEight studied the trend of Union-Leader endorsements and found that sinking newspaper circulation might mean the paper’s pick packs less of a punch now, but notes that Gingrich could have been a fluke. “At the least, the Union Leader endorsement doesn’t hurt Christie in his quest to convert his high net favorability ratings in New Hampshire into votes, and it could be a good sign that he’s on his way to doing so.”