Chris Christie’s N.H. coup: How endorsements shape voters’ choices

1 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Chris Christie Endorsed by Key New Hampshire Newspaper.

Washington — The news came down Saturday night like a lightning bolt from Mount Olympus: New Hampshire’s premier newspaper, the Union Leader, had endorsed Chris Christie for president.The endorsement of his presidential bid by the New Hampshire Union Leader, which came down in the heart of the Thanksgiving weekend, might not seem like a big deal for Christie (or the rest of the field) at first glance.

As the end of the year fundraising deadline draws near, presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle used Cyber Monday to try and lure in thrifty supporters.Today’s reminder of the fundamental absurdity of the process by which the huddled masses of America select the leader of their nation, and thus of the free world, comes to us courtesy of New Hampshire, where the state’s largest newspaper, the Union-Leader, this weekend endorsed New Jersey Gov.Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump slammed rival Chris Christie on Monday, just days after the New Jersey governor scored an important endorsement in New Hampshire. “How is Chris Christie running the state of NJ, which is deeply troubled, when he is spending all of his time in NH? Just like the big box stores and online retailers, some candidates—including Jeb Bush, Ohio Governor John Kasich, and Senator Ted Cruz—offered at least 20 percent off all campaign store items.

New Jerseyans not happy!” Trump tweeted Monday morning. “As a U.S. attorney and then a big-state governor, he is the one candidate who has the range and type of experience the nation desperately needs,” the paper’s publisher Joseph McQuaid, said in an editorial posted Saturday night. The newspaper’s endorsement, coming 10 weeks before the first-in-the-nation primary, arrived earlier than it had in the past two election cycles involving crowded Republican primary fields.

Chris Christie of New Jersey was not even invited to the main stage of the last Republican debate, but he has managed to get the attention of the Republican presidential candidate who is leading in the polls. Governor Christie, once a highly sought GOP alternative to Mitt Romney early in the 2012 cycle, has struggled to gain traction in the crowded 2016 field and is languishing in single digits.

Before I go any further, yes, snarky Twitter guy, I am aware that the Union Leader’s track record of endorsing winning New Hampshire primary candidates is not stellar. (The paper backed Newt Gingrich in 2012; he finished a distant fourth.) And yes, I am also aware that newspaper endorsements generally don’t mean a hell of a lot. (The “newspaper endorsement” ranks in the middle of the pack in the Fix Endorsement Hierarchy.) But those two facts miss the point. Senator Marco Rubio offered free shipping and discounts on themed bundles—for example, $15 off a $100 worth of coffee mugs with slogans like “Wake Up America!” Martin O’Malley, who accepted public funding—and the strict spending restrictions that come with it—this month, did not advertise any deals on Twitter, but is also currently offering free shipping on Cyber Monday orders over $75.

The endorsement, however, was framed in terms of the changed landscape of the 2016 presidential race in the wake of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, the aftermath of which Mr. Joe McQuaid, publisher of the newspaper, said on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” that Christie is well-equipped to beat Trump, who holds a substantial lead in the Granite State. “Christie is the guy who can take the fight to Trump, Hillary, ISIS,” McQuaid said. Here are its presidential endorsements for the last few Republican primaries: Of its seven most recent presidential endorsements, the U-L managed to pick the eventual Republican nominee exactly twice, and on one of those times he was a sitting president who was running unopposed. Senator Rand Paul, who only had $2 million cash-on-hand at the start of this quarter, asked supporters to donate $20.16 to his campaign for Cyber Monday. Bush re-election, and a person whose name everyone outside of Delaware just read and said “Who?” This endorsement is the political equivalent of that short stretch of Interstate 95 through New Hampshire that serves mostly to connect Maine and Massachusetts.

And I think people are going to buy that.” Not that voters are ready to fall in line behind a newspaper publisher – or a governor or congressman or anybody else trying to throw their political weight around. While Trump has gone after several other GOP candidates after they received a boost, including Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio, the billionaire business mogul has largely refrained from outright criticizing Christie — until now. Cruz, who raised more than any of his Republican challengers last quarter, has also raised the bar on the holiday tie in campaign promotion, offering supporters a chance to win a special, autographed Cruz for President sweater. “This December, don’t shy away from a debate; wear the CruzChristmas Sweater with pride,” read an e-mail the campaign sent to supporters. Voters get their information from a variety of sources – social media, friends, neighbors, TV, newspapers – and will often weigh their choices right up until the moment they walk into the voting booth.

Christie responded to Trump’s attack at an event in Portsmouth, N.H., where he secured the backing of Renee and Dan Plummer, prominent Republican activists in the state. “I’m really glad that Donald noticed me, that’s so nice and I’m happy to take any observations he has even if he can only do them in 140 characters or less, which seems to be the best way he can communicate so that’s fine,” the governor said. “I’m happy to be noticed and happy to be noticed by Donald, it’s a good day for me so I’m not worried about that at all.” The Union-Leader’s backing of Christie also seemed to grab former Florida Gov. Its purpose served, you won’t even think about it until the next time you pass through–much in the same way the country thinks about New Hampshire in the years between national elections.

Christie is a blow to two other candidates vying for establishment backing and casting themselves as the grown-ups in a field of first-term senators and political neophytes: Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, and Gov. But for a candidate, a major endorsement creates a news point that can be broadcast far and wide, creating or contributing to that elusive commodity called “buzz.” A big endorsement can help create a bandwagon effect.

Even after it became clear that Christie’s initial assertion that he had no clue about what his top aides were doing was accurate, he still felt like damaged goods to lots and lots of Republican voters and donors. CNN.com said his “struggling presidential campaign got a much-needed boost.” The Wall Street Journal also suggested the endorsement could “boost the…struggling campaign.” Maggie Haberman of the New York Times suggested the endorsement gave Christie a “lift” while noting the U-L’s “mixed record with recent endorsements,” which is a bit like saying the Chicago Cubs have a mixed record with recent pennant wins.

Trump, who has been trying for a week to justify his claim that he watched “thousands and thousands” of people cheering in New Jersey on Sept. 11, 2001, as the World Trade Center was attacked by terrorists, Mr. It gives cover to others to come on board.” In Iowa, which holds the kickoff caucuses on Feb. 1, the Des Moines Register is perceived as liberal, “and if they endorsed someone who conservatives think is more in the liberal camp, it may backfire,” says Dianne Bystrom, a political scientist at Iowa State University in Ames. “Newspaper endorsements have a muddy record.

In this year’s endorsement, McQuaid spoke to Christie’s background as a United States attorney and big-state governor, contrasting him with the freshman senators in the field and those with no experience in government. It is this narrow thinking that has led Christie to pour resources into the state in recent weeks, to the point where he has apparently personally called and texted all 1.3 million of its residents and turned over every rock chasing endorsements from Republican leaders there. Christie alone until now, occasionally criticizing his record of managing his state’s struggling economy, where the billionaire developer once ran a number of casinos. His allies insisted the perception of his candidacy was far more negative than the on-the-ground reality, but they had a lot of trouble getting that message heard. In both cases, the endorsement fell around this time of year, but those primaries were held almost a month earlier than next year’s contest, which will take place in early February.

He probably has two weeks — up to and including the next Republican debate Dec. 15 in Las Vegas — to keep and build that momentum. (Sidebar: Christie could really use a poll — or polls — that bump him into the top three in New Hampshire; the Suffolk University poll that came out late last week showed him back in the pack at four percent, which isn’t close to good enough for him.) Chris Christie has been tramping around New Hampshire for the past year in hopes that he might earn a moment like the one he currently finds himself in.

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