Clin­ton in a land­slide — in en­dorse­ments: Does it mat­ter?

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FEATURES - By David Bauder and Hil­lel Italie

NEW YORK » “A clear and present dan­ger to our coun­try.” “Xeno­pho­bia, racism and misog­yny.” “Be­neath our na­tional dig­nity.”

Those aren’t ex­cerpts from at­tack ads by Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign. Those are long­time Repub­li­can news­pa­pers dis­avow­ing Don­ald Trump.

If news­pa­per en­dorse­ments equaled vic­tory, Clin­ton would be in line for a his­toric land­slide. She has been en­dorsed by dozens of pa­pers rang­ing from such ex­pected back­ers as The New York Times to such once-cer­tain GOP ad­vo­cates as The Dal­las Morn­ing News, the Ari­zona Repub­lic and the Cincin­nati En­quirer, which on Sept. 23 called for “a leader who will bring out the best in Amer­i­cans, not the worst.”

On Fri­day, USA To­day ended its tra­di­tion of not tak­ing sides and pub­lished an anti-en­dorse­ment, con­tend­ing that Trump “lacks the tem­per­a­ment, knowl­edge, steadi­ness and hon­esty that Amer­ica needs from its pres­i­dents.” The pa­per didn’t back Clin­ton but ad­vised read­ers to “Stay true to your con­vic­tions.”

Trump, mean­while, is sup­ported by far fewer pub­li­ca­tions. They in­clude a pa­per owned by son-in-law Jared Kush­ner (the New York Ob­server) and the Na­tional En­quirer, a tabloid whose par­ent com­pany is run by Trump friend David Pecker and whose con­tent usu­ally fo­cuses on celebrity scan­dal.

Trump scorned the neg­a­tive ed­i­to­ri­als Fri­day, tweet­ing that “The peo­ple are re­ally smart in can­celling sub­scrip­tions to the Dal­las & Ari­zona pa­pers & now USA To­day will lose read­ers! The peo­ple get it!”

If Clin­ton’s over­whelm­ing ad­van­tage among edi­to­rial boards mir­rors the re­vul­sion Trump has in­spired from of­fi­cials in both par­ties, the en­dorse­ments may also il­lus­trate the de­cline in news­pa­pers’ power to shape opin­ions and the strength of Trump’s anti-es­tab­lish­ment ap­peal. Polls show Clin­ton trail­ing in Texas, Ari­zona and Ohio de­spite the un­ex­pected sup­port of GOP pa­pers. Dur­ing the pri­maries, the ven­er­a­ble con­ser­va­tive pa­per the New Hamp­shire Union Leader en­dorsed Chris Christie, only to have the New Jersey gov­er­nor lose the state de­ci­sively, drop out and back Trump. The Ari­zona Repub­lic fa­vored John Ka­sich in the state’s GOP pri­mary, but Trump won eas­ily, and the Ohio gov­er­nor fin­ished fourth.

“News­pa­per en­dorse­ments don’t have nearly the im­pact they used to,” says Mark MacKin­non, co­host of Show­time’s po­lit­i­cal show “The Cir­cus” and a long­time ad­viser who has worked with for­mer Pres­i­dent George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain of Ari­zona, the GOP’s 2008 pres­i­den­tial can­di­date. “There are just way too many other sources of in­for­ma­tion for vot­ers to­day.”

“They are just part of the wave,” says po­lit­i­cal his­to­rian Rick Perl­stein, who is in the midst of a mul­ti­vol­ume se­ries on the rise of the con­ser­va­tive move­ment and has writ­ten in depth about elec­tions of the 1960s, ‘70s and be­yond. “They don’t start any­thing, and prob­a­bly didn’t de­ter­mine much — but be­to­ken a wide­spread dis­gust in the air.”

Read­ers may not let ed­i­to­ri­als tell them how to vote, but they care enough to re­spond. Dal­las Morn­ing News ed­i­tor Mike Wil­son re­calls a group of about a dozen peo­ple demon­strated against the en­dorse­ment across the street from the pa­per. Wil­son went down to talk with them. In a se­ries of tweets, he de­scribed a dis­cus­sion that be­gan an­grily but settled into a se­ri­ous di­a­logue. “I got a few words in and per­suaded zero peo­ple,” he tweeted.

Wil­son said he’s re­ceived some mes­sages from Clin­ton sup­port­ers thank­ing the news­pa­per for the edi­to­rial, but hasn’t heard that it changed any­one’s mind. “They’re not re­ally meant to end ar­gu­ments, they’re mean to start dis­cus­sions, and this one cer­tainly did that,” he said.

“One of the rea­sons we ex­ist is to take edi­to­rial po­si­tions on things that can im­prove lives in our com­mu­nity,” he said. “That is one of the core func­tions of a news­pa­per.”

Peter Bha­tia, ed­i­tor and vice pres­i­dent of au­di­ence en­gage­ment at the Cincin­nati En­quirer, said he knows that the im­pact of edi­to­rial en­dorse­ments has less­ened. “The days of peo­ple tak­ing the en­dorse­ments of an edi­to­rial board and go­ing into the polling place with them are pretty much long gone,” he said. But he still con­sid­ers it an im­por­tant obli­ga­tion. The news­pa­per’s edi­to­rial board came to con­sen­sus pretty quickly so they de­cided to get it out.

As an­tic­i­pated, some read­ers lashed out. Bha­tia said he re­ceived some 150 an­gry emails and there were some can­celed sub­scrip­tions. “I am im­pressed by how thor­oughly re­hearsed some of the at­tacks on Hil­lary Clin­ton are,” he said. “They have a very fa­mil­iar bent to them.”

He also cites their in­ci­vil­ity, but doesn’t find that un­usual in the in­ter­net age. He said there also have been a few dozen pos­i­tive notes. He said he gave an in­ter­view to CBC ra­dio in Canada and got a long email from some­one who found his ar­gu­ments con­vinc­ing.

Just one prob­lem: The per­son lives in Canada and can’t vote.

MATT ROURKE — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton meets with at­ten­dees dur­ing a cam­paign stop in Fort Pierce, Fla., on Fri­day.

JOHN LOCHER — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump vis­its the Ger­ald R. Ford Pres­i­den­tial Museum on Fri­day in Grand Rapids, Mich.

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