As regular readers of this space have figured out, your humble and obedient ink-stained wretch views the U.S. system of politics and government as sub-optimal. There’s no perfect system, but as the years go by I am frequently struck by the bugs in ours.
One of those bugs that is currently front and center is the absurd extra influence that our system, as evolved, awards to two small, atypical states — Iowa and New Hampshire — because of the silly quirk that makes them the first two caucus/primary states.
This has nothing to do with the Framers of the Constitution nor even any laws passed by our benighted Congress. It could, and should, be changed so that the honor of going first rotates, or that a group of states goes first, so that the impact of the quirkiness of any one state is diminished. But apparently it will not be. And so the national political media are abuzz with the big news that the Manchester, N.H.-based Union Leader newspaper has endorsed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for president.
We are told this is influential. Fivethirtyeight.com supplies a chart showing that many past endorsees may have gained some support in the New Hampshire primary after being Union Leader-endorsed, although I note from the list that very few of them were ultimately nominated, only one of them (Ronald Reagan) became president, and many of the endorsees also lost the New Hampshire primary.
The endorsement editorial is here. Just seven paragraphs, it makes no mention of any policy position Christie has taken, nor any concrete accomplishments. The Union Leader, speaking in the traditional (also silly) first-person plural of editorial voices, expresses admiration for Christie’s blunt style, but seems to base its decision mostly on Christie’s resume, which features experience as both a governor and a U.S. attorney.
Because of the great respect given to this endorsement process, the paper’s publisher Joe McQuaid was invited on “Meet the Press” Sunday to talk about how the paper came to endorse Christie. The transcript is here. McQuaid said that he and “my editorial writer and some people that I respect in the community” decided to consider only governors for the endorsement, which apparently was a slap at Barack Obama, who came to the presidency without prior experience in an executive office, but which also had the effect of ruling out most of the current field. So the remaining candidates for the endorsement were only Christie, Jeb Bush and John Kasich.
Basically, I was amazed at the lack of rationale McQuaid was able to supply for the endorsement and the fact that the “Meet the Press” gave it so much respect.
The most recent poll I could find for the New Hampshire primary (a week old, from the Boston Globe) had Christie in seventh place with 5.3 percent.
By the way, the Union Leader had a daily circulation of 45,000 and a Sunday circulation of 64,000 in 2011. I can’t find a more recent number than that.