Special to the Enterprise
Once upon a time, political campaigns cared a lot about landing newspaper endorsements. Strategy memos were hatched, fake editorial board meetings functioning as candidates’ dress-rehearsals were conducted, and policy papers unveiled – all with the seemingly consequential goal of landing these editorial nods.
Politicians thought voters cared what the top papers thought. That may not be the case any longer.
In New York, the city’s three largest papers – which each happen to also be among the nation’s top 10 in circulation – suffered huge collective whiffs in recent weeks. For the office of mayor, the entire trifecta of the New York Times, Daily News and Post, all endorsed Christine Quinn in the Democratic primary over Bill de Blasio. This was notable because the papers rarely agree on much (though all supported Michael Bloomberg). And the editorial consensus was viewed as a significant, possible turning point in the campaign for Quinn.
In reality, of course, the papers’ candidate was trounced, failing to make it into a runoff and trailing the winning primary candidate, Bill de Blasio, by nearly 25 points. One could argue that the margin might have been larger without their endorsements, which is hard to disprove. But polls at the time the papers weighed in showed Quinn with a fighter’s chance at squeezing into the primary. It just didn’t happen.
Fortunately for the editorial boards, there would be a second chance just weeks later. The primary for Public Advocate, the second-ranking office in the city, resulted in a runoff, leaving two candidates: Daniel Squadron and Letitia James.
As they did in the mayoral primary, all three papers of seemingly disparate ideological bents – the Times is generally seen as liberal, the Post conservative, and the News somewhere in between – went for Squadron. And last night when the runoff results came in, their chosen candidate … was defeated by 20 points.
To understand the significance of this, consider that in the old days (of, say, 2010), simply landing one of these endorsements – the New York Times – would have been viewed as a big deal.