The New Hampshire Union Leader endorsed Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich today, giving Gingrich his most significant endorsement yet, and snubbing Mitt Romney as “one who tells us what he thinks we want to hear.”
In an above-the-fold editorial today, the Gingrich endorsement ran under the headline, “For President, Newt Gingrich.”
While the endorsement was largely positive regarding Gingrich, the editorial board said they did not agree with all of Gingrich’s positions and acknowledged what many Republicans are saying about the field of candidates.
“We would rather back someone with whom we may sometimes disagree than one who tells us what he thinks we want to hear,” the paper said. “Newt Gingrich is by no means the perfect candidate.”
In 2007, the paper endorsed Sen. John McCain, who then went on to win the state’s primary. But the paper’s track record is not spotless: In 2000, Steve Forbes got the endorsement but little else when voters headed to the polls that January.
The snub comes just over a week after Romney was seated next to Union Leader publisher Joe McQuaid at a fundraising luncheon in Manchester.
The Romney campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The paper met with all of the presidential candidates except for Rep. Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty, who, according to editorial page editor Drew Cline, “Just weren’t here.”
Businessman Herman Cain is scheduled to meet with the editorial board this week, and it’s not yet known if that plan will change in light of the endorsement.
The editorial board spoke with Gingrich last Monday, when apparently he was able to persuade the members with his straight-talk and a campaign strategy in which Gingrich says is based on solutions.
“We are in critical need of the innovative, forward-looking strategy and positive leadership that Gingrich has shown he is capable of providing,” the Union Leader wrote.
The Gingrich campaign seemed to be near dead in the summer when his staff left in a mass exodus after reports surfaced Gingrich had two half-million dollar credit lines at Tiffany’s and took a luxury cruise to the Greece, despite advisers’ recommendations.
Gingrich said Friday his campaign was like the movie “The Sixth Sense.”
“I was the only man in the room who didn’t know I was dead,” Gingrich said to a Naples, Fla., crowd.
Despite recent scrutiny Gingrich faced with reports surfacing he made almost $2 million from consulting for failed home mortgage corporation Freddie Mac up until its collapse and reports that he changed his position on health mandates, the Union Leader was able to look past his so far roller coaster campaign.
“Our nation is in peril, yet much of the attention has been focused on fluff, silliness and each candidate’s minor miscues,” the paper wrote.
The editorial cited Gingrich’s “Contract with America” from the early 1990s and his history of leading Republicans to their first majority in the House in 40 years. The federal government had a balanced budget all four years of Gingrich’s stint as speaker, and “even a surplus despite the political challenge of dealing with a Democratic President,” the Union Leader wrote.
“A lot of candidates say they’re going to improve Washington,” the endorsement said. “Newt Gingrich has actually done that, and in this race he offers the best shot of doing it again.”
More than 600 people showed up at both events the Gingrich campaign held in Naples this weekend. His rise in the polls has been a steady climb from 6 percent in the summer to around 14 percent support in October, to a virtual tie with Romney at the top of the pack. The former Massachusetts governor’s numbers have always been at or near the top of the field.
The Gingrich campaign released a statement today saying the Union Leader was one of the country’s “most important conservative barometers,” boasting that the paper was among the first to champion Ronald Reagan.
“Newt Gingrich has solidified his hold as the conservative front runner in the 2012 presidential race,” the Gingrich campaign said.
This weekend, former President Bill Clinton, who dueled with Gingrich when he was speaker of the House, had nice words to say about Gingrich to Newsmax.
“He’s articulate and he tries to think of a conservative version of an idea that will solve a legitimate problem,” Clinton said.
Clinton said after watching the national security debate, Gingrich’s position on undocumented immigrants and a social security guarantee would make an independent voter say, “Well, I’ve got to consider that.”
“I think he’s doing well just because he is thinking and people are hungry for ideas that make sense,” Clinton said.
The Union Leader wrote today they looked for conservatives with “courage and conviction who are independent-minded, grounded in their core beliefs about this nation and its people, and best equipped for the job.”
Gingrich is scheduled to campaign in South Carolina Monday through Wednesday and then to head to Iowa Thursday. There are no plans in the current public schedule to campaign in New Hampshire in the coming week.