The newspaper endorsement battle — in one chart

October 22, 2012

Some of the biggest newspaper endorsements in the country have been handed down in recent days, with a big chunk going to President Obama and a big chunk going to Mitt Romney.

Top endorsements for Obama include the Tampa Bay Times, the Denver Post, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Philadelphia Inquirer, while Romney has gotten the support of the Orlando Sentinel, the New Hampshire Union Leader, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Columbus Dispatch.

Below is a chart recapping all the major newspaper endorsements, both nationally and in swing states. And after the chart are a few observations.

 A few notes:

* Newspaper endorsements are not the be-all, end-all of campaigns, and this chart isn't meant to imply otherwise. But candidates and campaigns do spend time trying to earn these endorsements, and we have to believe that some of them matter to some voters.

* While this list doesn't include every newspaper in every swing state, it does include all the major ones, along with their Sunday circulation and whom they endorsed in 2008.

* Not all newspaper endorsements are created equal. The Denver Post and Tampa Bay Times are particularly important for Obama, since they reach key swing areas of swing states. The same can be said for the Orlando Sentinel and Columbus Dispatch on Romney's side. 

* Newspapers endorsing Obama have more subscribers than those backing Romney. If you add up the Sunday circulation of all the papers, those supporting Obama reach 3 million people, while those backing Romney reach 2.1 million.

* There are very few surprises in here. In fact, only two newspapers on this list have flipped from supporting Obama in 2008 to Romney this year — the Orlando Sentinel and Reno Gazette-Journal. None have gone the other direction, from John McCain in 2008 to Obama in 2012.

* There are still plenty of big-name endorsements out there, with the circulation of undecided newspapers at a combined 4 million. With papers such as The Washington Post, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Cincinnati Enquirer yet to endorse, there are plenty of prizes yet.

* Obama is likely to win those prizes. We noted above that very few papers have switched the party they are endorsing. And of the 20 papers listed above that haven't endorsed, only three backed McCain in 2008.

* The fact that Obama is likely to win more newspaper endorsements isn't surprising. Editorial boards tend to endorse more Democrats than Republicans, and they definitely did that in 2008. 

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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