Newspaper endorsements

Perry may lead in the public opinion polls, but he has clearly lost the support of the state’s major newspapers. Some of the newspapers that endorsed Perry in 2006 but are now endorsing Bill White include: The Dallas Morning News, The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal,  San Angelo Standard-Times, and San Antonio Express News.

Other newspapers that have endorsed White (who may or may not have endorsed Perry in 2006) include:

As of today, I can’t find any major newspaper that has endorsed Perry.

Why the defections?

First, Perry has shunned the editorial boards and his campaign has attempted to declare them obsolete. That’s not the best approach to winning anyone’s support. Two weeks ago the Tyler Courier-Times–Telegraph (a clearly conservative newspaper) ran an editorial across the top of the front page (Tyler Courier Times Telegraph October 3, 2010)  urging Perry to “end the silence” and talk to editorial boards and enter into debates. That should have been a pretty clear signal.

Second, Perry’s campaign has sometimes been too clever for its own good. The technique of avoiding editorial boards, debates, and generally avoiding political risk may serve him well with many voters. However, editorial boards and other close observers become frustrated. The looming $21 billion budget has a lot of people looking for answers. Both Perry and White have both failed to provide enough answers. However, at least White has put himself into the settings where those issues could be pressed. Newspapers’ endorsements may not be important to many Texans (were they ever?). However, allowing yourself to be subject to close questioning and scrutiny is part of the process. Visiting editorial boards may be on its way it out, but that had not been replaced and candidates might want to consider paying a courtesy visit until a replacement comes along.

Third, Perry has been in office longer than most Texans can feel comfortable about. Many Republicans are willing to put that aside and vote against Bill White. However, asking conservatives to sustain one person in an executive office for over a decade is certain to make some pause. Newspapers, always wanting to play the guard dog in American politics, will be the first to warn a politician against over-staying their welcome.

Perry’s partisans try to claim that “liberal” media is behind the wave of endorsements. However, there’s no doubting that editorial boards that endorsed Perry (often enthusiastically) are now calling for a change. The Perry campaign may eventually see this strategy pay off with a victory at the polls. At the moment, they’re paying the price and may be thinking about how wise their choices were.

Perry will likely still win the election. However, whether his ambition is to be a strong governor in his next term or to position himself for national office, his campaign has done him a great disservice making him to appear to be either arrogant or fearful. Perry has been an effective debater and has little to fear from editorial boards. There’s no need to hide protect him at a moment when he could easily be projecting strength.

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