Newspapers and Voters Choose Different Republican Candidates for President

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From Seattle to New York and New Hampshire to Iowa, more than three dozen newspaper editorial boards have thrown their support behind John Kasich’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination. But the Ohio governor’s failure to translate those endorsements into electoral wins raises doubts about whether such editorials have made an impact on the GOP race.

As Kasich has racked up support from major papers in many early-voting states, front-runner Donald Trump, who holds a commanding delegate lead over Kasich, has yet to nab a single one. No other candidate on the Republican side has come close to Kasich’s tally; Sen. Marco Rubio has received about two dozen, while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who dropped out of the Republican race last month, got five.

Yet Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, who has also failed to secure any major newspaper endorsement, have won many more nominating contests than both Kasich and Rubio. Kasich has yet to overtake Trump in any primary or caucus despite winning the endorsements of top papers in South Carolina and New Hampshire, among other states.

The impact of these endorsements on voters remains unclear. James Snyder, a professor of history and political science at Harvard University, who has studied newspaper endorsements in American elections, told ABC News he was unaware “of any studies that show convincingly that endorsements matter in presidential elections, or in other types of elections.”

But certain well-placed endorsements, like that from a liberal-leaning paper for a Republican who wants to appear moderate, can make a difference, according to Jonathan Ladd, an associate professor of public policy at Georgetown University.

Candidates spend hours meeting with more influential editorial boards to try to win their backing, like that of Iowa’s largest newspaper, The Des Moines Register, which endorsed Rubio days before the state’s caucuses. The New Hampshire Union Leader, whose publisher supported New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie before saying he made a mistake when Christie dropped out and endorsed Trump. The Sun Sentinel, in Florida, last week refused to endorse any candidate on the GOP side, saying all four remaining ones were "unqualified to be president."

For Kasich, the endorsements could validate him as a viable alternative to Trump, Ladd told ABC News. “It helps him be noticed and be able to say, ‘I’m not a fringe candidate, I have a real chance of winning delegates, a real chance of winning primaries,’” Ladd said.

Republican candidates often paint the news media as an enemy, so certain endorsements might not always provide good optics, like when The New York Times, viewed by many conservatives as left-leaning, encouraged readers to vote for Kasich. But Kasich has often spoken of his appeal to Democrats, so the endorsement may have persuaded a particular demographic.

In January, allies of then-candidate Carly Fiorina tried to turn her lack of endorsements into a positive, releasing a video that showed her opponents being endorsed by newspapers that were either liberal or had poor track records of choosing winners. "The media have spoken. Now it's our turn," her campaign declared.

Two weeks later, following disappointing shows in Iowa and New Hampshire, Fiorina dropped out of the race.