In November, New Hampshire's largest newspaper, the conservative Manchester Union-Leader, endorsed Newt Gingrich over Mitt Romney, noting pointedly that it endorses conservatives who are grounded in their core beliefs.
Now, the Boston Globe - New England's biggest newspaper - has endorsed Jon Huntsman over Romney, saying Thursday that Huntsman is the Republican who has been unafraid to articulate specific and far-sighted goals and ideals, while Romney has allowed himself to be pushed to the ideological right by concerns about his appeal to conservatives.
What impact does a Massachusetts newspaper have in the New Hampshire primary? Boston media have long held significant sway in Southern New Hampshire, which is less than an hour away and contains the bulk of the state's population. The Globe has a significant subscriber base there - including one St. Onge home - and many who live at or near the N.H.-Mass. border commute to Boston or its nearby technology corridor.
You can cue the conspiracy theories, such as the left-leaning Globe wanting to stretch out Republican primary for as long as possible to benefit President Barack Obama. But the Globe also snubbed the former Mass. governor in 2008, endorsing eventual nominee John McCain, and this endorsement illustrates the problem Romney not only has connecting with the far right of his party - but the overall electorate. While the far right frets that he's not a true conservative, moderates also have long had issues warming to him, in part because he's not offered a consistent philosophy or narrative through the years that they can connect to.
Said the Globe:
Romney’s ultimate intentions aren’t clear. Is this for real? Both his supporters and detractors suspect that behind the conservative scaffolding is a data-driven moderate who will make practical compromises. But the way Romney has run his campaign, it’s impossible to tell.
Romney will romp in New Hampshire regardless of endorsements. He'll also likely have time to convince the country in the general election that as the Republican governor of a liberal state, he was necessarily pragmatic, and that same pragmatism could serve America well in difficult times. First, he'll have to convince the conservatives in his party - and that will continue Saturday at what promises to be a contentious New Hampshire debate.
Peter St. Onge