What the Union Leader means for Newt Gingrich (and what it doesn’t)

at 07:09 AM ET, 11/28/2011

The endorsement by the New Hampshire Union Leader of the presidential candidacy of Newt Gingrich provides the former House speaker with a boost in the Granite State and likely solidifies him as the conservative alternative to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.


Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich won the endorsement of the New Hampshire Union Leader( MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
“The endorsement gives Newt credibility with New Hampshire voters, and conservatives especially, just when he needs it most,” said Mike Dennehy, who managed the New Hampshire presidential campaigns for Arizona Sen. John McCain in 2000 and 2008. “As with McCain in ‘08, the [Union Leader] has brought to life the comeback for Newt Gingrich.”

While there are differing views within the Republican political community about the power that the Union Leader retains — it has endorsed the eventual nominee only twice in the last two-plus decades — it’s clearly an endorsement that Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman would have liked to have.

For Romney, the Union Leader endorsement would have complicated efforts by Gingrich to get to his ideological right — a sort of conservative stamp of credibility that could be used in his firewall state to push back against the certain attack that he is a flip-flopping moderate.

(Need evidence? Look back at how McCain used his 2008 endorsement from the Union Leader to blunt attacks against his conservative bona fides.)

An endorsement of either Perry or Huntsman would have been used by these largely stagnant campaigns as evidence that they were gathering momentum.

That Gingrich won it sends a signal to unaligned conservatives — and if the yo-yoing in state and national polls is any indication, there are lots and lots of them — that the former speaker is the strongest anti-Romney candidate in the field.

“I don’t think it changes Romney’s status, but it consolidates Newt’s status as his primary challenger,”said former Minnesota congressman Vin Weber, an adviser to Romney’s presidential bid.

Added Robert Walker, a former Pennsylvania congressman and leading Gingrich supporter: “The Union Leader endorsement of Newt is another indication that conservatives are beginning to coalesce behind his candidacy.”

The key question going forward is just how aggressive the Union Leader editorial board — led by publisher Joseph McQuaid — will be in its advocacy for Gingrich and, as importantly, its attacks on Romney (or any of the other candidates).

In 2008, the Union Leader repeatedly went after Romney as a political shape-shifter, providing fodder for his opponents.

And there is evidence that it may continue that policy. Its editorial Sunday said, “We would rather back someone with whom we may sometimes disagree than one who tells us what he thinks we want to hear” — a line many saw as alluding the Romney.

And McQuaid tells Jonathan Martin that his paper will likely follow its usual formula, which includes frequent editorials and tough criticisms of the other candidates.

“I think we will be sticking with our traditional approach,” McQuaid said.

Romney, while not expecting to win the Union Leader endorsement this time around, has worked to build bridges to the paper — giving his side the reasonable expectation that it wouldn’t receive such harsh treatment again.

“With the constellation of New Hampshire political brass largely coalesced around him, and diligent work invested into the [Union Leader] relationship since 2008, I would be surprised to see the paper take the same approach,” said Phil Musser, a Republican consultant who advised Romney in 2008 but is neutral in this race. “But only Joe McQuaid really knows the answer to that.”

One thing that the Union Leader endorsement can’t and won’t do: create an organization for Gingrich. While the former speaker has been staffing up after losing virtually his entire campaign team — nationally and in early states — earlier this year, his organization is nowhere close to the Romney level and won’t get there before the vote early next year.

The Union Leader endorsement then is rightly understood as a feather in the cap for Gingrich’s candidacy. But it isn’t a panacea.

Romney dips toe in Iowa: In yet another sign that Romney is starting to make a real play in Iowa, the campaign has come out with its first paid media in the state: a mailer pitching Romney as the most electable Republican presidential candidate.

The mailers also pitch Romney as someone who will “protect our values” — a nod to the social conservatives who tend to dominate Iowa’s caucuses — while another focuses on illegal immigration.

Romney has not spent much time in the Hawkeye State, but recent polling shows him right up there with the other frontrunners, which has made it a more attractive state to play in. And given Gingrich’s boost in New Hampshire, it maybe necessary for Romney to be strong in both of the earliest states.

That said, religious conservatives in Iowa tend to balk at Romney’s Mormon faith, so Romney has his work cut out for him. The good news for him is that they are struggling to organize against him.

Texas redistricting to the Supreme Court?: A three-judge panel in Texas last week issued a Democrat-friendly interim congressional map for the 2012 election, and Republicans are fighting back.

State Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block implementation of the state House and Senate maps proposed by the judges, and he is also likely to seek a stay on the congressional map.

With a long-term legal fight in motion over the GOP’s proposed map, the court was asked to draw a map for the 2012 election. The map wound up being much more friendly to Democrats than the map the GOP proposed, with Democrats favored to win three of the state’s four newly created districts and Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D) being spared. The GOP map had dismantled Doggett’s district and gave Republicans good odds in two of the four new districts.

Meanwhile, candidate filing officially begins today.

Fixbits:

Romney says he favors gay rights generally, thought he opposes gay marriage.

Romney calls on Obama to take the $600 billion set to be cut from the Defense Department budget after the “supercommittee’s” failure and transfer it to other parts of the federal government.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) says she’s not content with the apology she has gotten from NBC over the song Jimmy Fallon’s band played during her appearance on his show. The song: Fishbone’s “Lyin’ A** B****.” NBC’s senior vice president has apologized, but Bachmann says a liberal would have gotten an apology from the president.

Bachmann keeps attacking Gingrich on illegal immigration.

Rick Perry, who has struggled on illegal immigration, will get a boost from immigration hawk sheriff Joe Arpaio.

A Perry campaign ad borrows footage from an ad run by the super PAC supporting his candidacy. The two groups are not allowed to coordinate, so the question is whether this constitutes coordination.

Herman Cain blames the media for his decline.

A group urging Sarah Palin to run for president is going up with an ad in Iowa. It’s too late for Palin to file for the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries.

House Democrats are doing something no minority party has done since 1994 — raise more money than the majority party.

Must-reads:

A rogue convention? How GOP party rules may surprise in 2012” — Rob Richie and Elise Helgesen, Politico

Health-care case brings fight over which Supreme Court justices should decide it” — Robert Barnes, Washington Post

What Future Beckons for Failed Republican Rivals” — Albert R. Hunt, Bloomberg

Newt Gingrich Inc.: How the GOP hopeful went from political flameout to fortune” — Karen Tumulty, Washington Post

George and Mitt Romney: Like father, like son, until a political parting point” — Michael Leahy, Washington Post

Moderate Americans Elect group hoping to add third candidate to 2012 election ballot” — Krissah Thompson, Washington Post

Read more on PostPolitics.com

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George and Mitt: Like father, not quite like son

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