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22 August 2014 03:46 (South Africa)
World

Hunting for that final, killer endorsement: America's newspapers and celebrities make their choices

  • J Brooks Spector
  • World
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The campaigns have wound down, the last rallies are over until the victory and concession speeches, the candidates may have finally had a chance to get just a bit of sleep before sunrise on Election Day in America, and the final public opinion surveys have now been published. J BROOKS SPECTOR took a look at the good, the bad, and the truly bizarre in the realm of presidential candidate endorsements for 2012. 

Back in the 1800s, presidential politics was even rougher than it is now. Virtually every newspaper took a direct, partisan stance. If the paper’s masthead called itself “the such and such Democrat” or “the so and so Republican”, that’s what it was on its editorial pages – as well as in its news columns. Reports routinely called whoever the paper didn’t favour the 19th century equivalent of flesh-eating bacteria, pond scum or a knuckle-dragging simian.

Nowadays, the fact is that fewer and fewer people actually read a daily newspaper – or trust what they read when they do look at one – preferring to get their news from their favourite partisan echo chamber opinion outlet. Right-wingers choose the “Drudge Report” and cable television’s Fox News; while their opposite numbers go with MSNBC or an email from “Common Dreams”. Even in the spaces of the major papers, readers choose which columnists they will even deign to read. It is often Paul Krugman versus Russ Douthat, or Mark Gerson versus Tom Friedman. Nonetheless, most of the nation’s newspapers still feel the need to ponder who they should throw their support behind on their editorial pages and candidates appear before the respective editorial boards of newspapers across the nation – grovelling, rolling over, begging and sitting up on cue – seeking those endorsements.

And so, as all the endorsements are now in, incumbent president Obama gained more of these than his challenger, Mitt Romney. Having said that, a dozen major papers switched from their support for Obama in 2008 to Romney this time around. The biggest defector was The New York Daily News. As that paper opined, “Four years ago, the Daily News endorsed Obama, seeing a historic figure whose intelligence, political skills and empathy with common folk positioned him to build on the small practical experience he would bring to the world's toughest job. We valued Obama's pledge to govern with bold pragmatism and bipartisanship. The hopes of those days went unfulfilled.” Sounds like these editors are off Obama’s Christmas list.

The Daily News has hardly been a consistent Democratic or Republican supporter over the years, however. In 2000 it supported Al Gore and then switched to George Bush in 2004 against John Kerry. Other switchers include Newsday, the Houston Chronicle, the Orlando Sentinel and the Des Moines Register. Obama has also lost the support of seven papers that were in his editorial corner in 2008 but which have given up on the idea of endorsing anyone. 

The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel was for Obama the last time around, but this year has it has argued endorsements not only do not change minds but also actually make a paper’s readers suspect the paper’s objectivity. As the Journal-Sentinel wrote, “This loss of credibility is a high price to pay to conjure a ghost of newspapering past that we have come to believe is of little value today.” 

In toto, however, Obama gained support from 41 of the country’s largest papers while Mitt Romney won the backing of 34 others. In all of this, Obama actually gained one paper that had backed John McCain the previous election, The San Antonio Express-News. Moreover, in circulation terms, papers supporting the incumbent have about 10 million subscribers, compared with around 6.4 million for Romney. Interestingly too, two major pro-business, centrist British periodicals, The Financial Times and The Economist threw their weight behind president Obama as well. 

And among university newspapers across America, the majority of these publications have come out in favour of Barack Obama. The near-universal view seems to have been Obama has done a decent job during some really tough economic times and in a highly-charged partisan political climate. For these publications and their editors, this makes Obama the better candidate to move the US into a better economic future.

Beyond newspapers, celebrity endorsements are often a source of wonder, amusement - or even fun. A diligent search of the Internet turned up the following important endorsements. Mitt Romney is supported by supermodels Cindy Crawford, Melania Trump and Eduardo Verastegui, as well as porn stars Jenna Jameson and Michael Lucas - although The Daily Maverick believes it unlikely Romney sought the latter two endorsements. Meanwhile, Barack Obama gained the backing of celebrity chefs Daniel Boulud, Anthony Bourdain, Bobby Flay, Wolfgang Puck, Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Samuelsson, soccer superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, and supermodels Christie Brinkley and Amber Valletta. The Daily Maverick similarly does not believe many American voters have been swayed by these declarations, but who really knows what goes on in the minds of voters once they enter their voting booths at the country’s thousands of polling stations.

Finally, the Los Angeles Times made a search among the glitterati and identified numerous high-flying entertainment figures and their endorsements during this election. Alec Baldwin, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Eva Longoria, George Clooney, Kelly Clarkson, Kerry Washington, Lady Gaga, Lena Dunham, Madonna, Morgan Freeman, Nicki Minaj, Sarah Jessica Parker, Steven Spielberg, and Snoop Dogg all are backing Barack Obama. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is getting support from Chuck Norris, Clint Eastwood (and his empty chair), Donny and Marie Osmond, Gary Sinise, Jerry Bruckheimer, Kelsey Grammer, Kid Rock, Kristi Yamaguchi, Lindsay Lohan, Scott Baio, and Stacey Dash. No prize for being to identify every one of these celebrities, but, if you can, you will amaze your friends with your superior knowledge of pop culture.

Of course the only list of supporters that matters is what happens in the voting booths across the country, so there is lots more to watch before it is all over. DM

Read more:

  • List of Mitt Romney presidential campaign endorsements, 2012 at Wiki
  • List of Barack Obama presidential campaign endorsements, 2012 at Wiki
  • Newspaper Endorsements: The Final Tally for Obama and Romney at Adage.com
  • 2012 General Election Editorial Endorsements by Major Newspapers, Top 100 Newspapers Based on Daily Circulation at the Presidency Project at UCSB
  • Which one? America could do better than Barack Obama; sadly, Mitt Romney does not fit the bill at the Economist
  • U.K.-Based Financial Times Endorses Barack Obama: ‘The Wiser Bet’ at Mediaite.com
  •  Obama Has Edge in Student Newspaper Presidential Election Endorsements at the Huffington Post
  •  Celebrity presidential endorsements 2012 at the LA Times
  • J Brooks Spector
  • World


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