Union Leader backs Gingrich in NH

To the extent that newspaper endorsements still matter, this is one Newt Gingrich will be thrilled to pick up.

GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich received the endorsement of the influential editorial board of the New Hampshire Union Leader on Sunday, providing another boost to his surging campaign.

The endorsement gives the former House Speaker additional momentum after a month which has seen him vault to the top of national GOP polls.

“We are in critical need of the innovative, forward-looking strategy and positive leadership that Gingrich has shown he is capable of providing,” said the editorial by publisher Joseph W. McQuaid. “A lot of candidates say they’re going to improve Washington. Newt Gingrich has actually done that, and in this race he offers the best shot of doing it again,” he added.

Here’s the Union Leader‘s front-page editorial.

Gingrich was looking for some kind of boost in New Hampshire, and this may well give him one. The Union Leader is arguably the state’s most influential media outlet, especially in Republican circles — the paper makes no secret of its conservative perspective — and its endorsement has been widely sought by all of the leading GOP candidates.

Does the recipient of the Union Leader‘s endorsement generally go on to win the state’s primary? Looking back, the track record is mixed:

1976: The paper endorsed Ronald Reagan over Gerald Ford, but Reagan lost

1980: Reagan won the endorsement and the primary

1988: The Union Leader supported Pete du Pont, who finished fourth in the primary

1992: The paper supported Pat Buchanan, who finished a competitive second against an incumbent president

1996: The Union Leader again backed Buchanan, who this time won the primary

2000: Steve Forbes won the paper’s endorsement, in advance of a third-place showing

2008: The Union Leader supported John McCain, who won the state’s primary

Given this recent history, it’s a stretch to think today’s endorsement will suddenly propel Gingrich into contention. But given the Union Leader‘s influence, it’s probably fair to say New Hampshire voters who weren’t sure about the disgraced former House Speaker will give the guy another look.

If the polls are any indication, the New Hampshire primary is still Mitt Romney’s race to lose, and he remains the heavy favorite.

The primary is 44 days away.