The New Hampshire Union Leader editorial board has endorsed Newt Gingrich, giving the already surging former House speaker another shot in the arm in the Republican presidential contest.

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich greets supporters with his wife, Callista, at the Naples Hilton in Naples, Fla., on Friday. (AP Photo/Erik Kellar)

“We are in critical need of the innovative, forward-looking strategy and positive leadership that Gingrich has shown he is capable of providing,” publisher Joe McQaid wrote.

“Newt Gingrich is by no means the perfect candidate,” he added. “But Republican primary voters too often make the mistake of preferring an unattainable ideal to the best candidate who is actually running.”

The Union Leader’s endorsement is a coveted one in the GOP presidential race, given the conservative lean of the paper’s editorial board and its influence in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

In 2008, the paper backed Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who went on to win the state and the GOP nomination.

It has also backed more outside-the-box candidates like businessman Steve Forbes in 2000. Forbes finished third in the state that year, behind McCain and then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

While the paper backed McCain the second time around, it passed on endorsing Mitt Romney for the second straight election, despite his big lead in polls in New Hampshire and his reported efforts to secure the endorsement.

Polling has consistently shown Romney with a double-digit lead in the Granite State, including a recent survey by GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway that showed Romney at 35 percent and Gingrich at 18 percent.


Will the Union Leader endorsement matter for Gingrich?

Primary Tracker: Follow the races in the early states

Newt Inc.: How Gingrich went from flameout to fortune

Will demographic shifts save Obama in 2012?