The New Hampshire Union Leader, a powerful voice in the early voting state, endorsed
The newspaper's endorsement is among the most coveted in the state. The relatively early support — six weeks before the state's primary — could threaten what has been a consistent, comfortable lead for
Romney is unmentioned in the paper's front-page endorsement. But, the board writes, readers know "that we don't back candidates based on popularity polls or big-shot backers."
"We look for conservatives of courage and conviction who are independent-minded, grounded in their core beliefs about this nation and its people, and best equipped for the job," the paper writes. "We would rather back someone with whom we may sometimes disagree than one who tells us what he thinks we want to hear."
Romney still has the support of much of the state's political elite, including former Gov. John Sununu, former Sen.
But the Union Leader endorsement is a strong platform for Gingrich to have. When the paper endorsed
The timing is fortuitous for Gingrich, after a much-criticized answer on illegal immigration at Tuesday's Republican debate. Gingrich may not be "the perfect candidate," the paper writes now. But voters "too often make the mistake of preferring an unattainable ideal to the best candidate who is actually running."
Drew Cline, the paper's editorial editor, told
"Imagine what that would look like as president," he said. "We need a candidate that is bold in his leadership, has a vision for where he wants to take the country, and knows how to get there."
The Gingrich campaign called the Union Leader "one of the country’s most important conservative barometer[s]," and said it was "among the first to champion
"Newt Gingrich has solidified his hold as the conservative front-runner in the 2012 presidential race," the campaign said.
A WMUR Granite State Poll conducted by the