Editorial boards weigh in

EDITORIAL BOARDS WEIGH IN…. It’s hard to say whether, and to what extent, newspaper endorsements of presidential candidates makes a difference, but they’re a little more noteworthy when they’re unexpected or break with a paper’s historical partisan bent.

Yesterday, for example, the Washington Post’s editorial board, which has been center-right for quite some time, threw its support to Barack Obama.

Mr. Obama is a man of supple intelligence, with a nuanced grasp of complex issues and evident skill at conciliation and consensus-building. At home, we believe, he would respond to the economic crisis with a healthy respect for markets tempered by justified dismay over rising inequality and an understanding of the need for focused regulation. Abroad, the best evidence suggests that he would seek to maintain U.S. leadership and engagement, continue the fight against terrorists, and wage vigorous diplomacy on behalf of U.S. values and interests. Mr. Obama has the potential to become a great president.

…Mr. Obama’s temperament is unlike anything we’ve seen on the national stage in many years. He is deliberate but not indecisive; eloquent but a master of substance and detail; preternaturally confident but eager to hear opposing points of view. He has inspired millions of voters of diverse ages and races, no small thing in our often divided and cynical country. We think he is the right man for a perilous moment.

The Chicago Tribune’s editorial board had literally never endorsed a Democratic candidate in the paper’s 160-year history, but it threw its support to Obama.

Many Americans say they’re uneasy about Obama. He’s pretty new to them. We can provide some assurance. We have known Obama since he entered politics a dozen years ago. We have watched him, worked with him, argued with him as he rose from an effective state senator to an inspiring U.S. senator to the Democratic Party’s nominee for president.

We have tremendous confidence in his intellectual rigor, his moral compass and his ability to make sound, thoughtful, careful decisions. He is ready.

The LA Times’ editorial board hadn’t endorsed any presidential candidate in either party in decades. What’s more, the paper is now under the control of conservative Sam Zell. It nevertheless also endorsed Obama.

We need a leader who demonstrates thoughtful calm and grace under pressure, one not prone to volatile gesture or capricious pronouncement. We need a leader well-grounded in the intellectual and legal foundations of American freedom. Yet we ask that the same person also possess the spark and passion to inspire the best within us: creativity, generosity and a fierce defense of justice and liberty.

The Times without hesitation endorses Barack Obama for president.

Also yesterday, the Denver Post and Salt Lake Tribune, both of which supported Bush four years ago, endorsed Obama, as did the Chicago Sun-Times, the Kansas City Star, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

As for the significance of all of this, E&P’s Greg Mitchell makes the case that these endorsements matter, but I remain skeptical.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.