For only the second time in several decades and atypically early in an election year, the major regional newspaper Houston Chronicle formally endorsed a presidential candidate; Hillary Clinton, on 29 July 2016.
In 2008, the Houston Chronicle broke with tradition and endorsed then Senator Barack Obama, selecting a Democrat for the first time since 1964. Published on 19 October 2008 by the paper’s Editorial Board, the endorsement held:
Obama appears to possess the tools to confront our myriad and daunting problems. He’s thoughtful and analytical. He has met his opponents’ attacks with calm and reasoned responses. Viewers of the debates saw a poised, well-prepared plausible president with well-articulated positions on the bread-and-butter issues that poll after poll indicate are the true concerns of voters. While Arizona Sen. John McCain and his running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin have struck an increasingly personal and negative tone in their speeches, Obama has continued to talk about issues of substance.
It is true that Obama has served less than a term in the U.S. Senate and that his previous elective experience is confined to the Illinois Legislature. However, during that public service and his previous role as a community organizer on the streets of Chicago, he has developed an appreciation and understanding of the real-life concerns of middle- and low-income Americans.
On the Iraq war, Obama was an early voice of opposition to the initial invasion and his plan for a phased withdrawal of combat forces has been embraced by American and Iraqi policymakers. His partner on the ticket, Biden, is one of the leading foreign policy experts in Congress. They pledge to rebuild America’s diminished standing in the world and restore our reputation as the leading defender of democracy and human rights.
In October 2012, the Board endorsed Mitt Romney, who went on to lose that election to the incumbent President Obama. Their July 2016 endorsement of Clinton differed slightly from those two previous endorsements, adopting a tenor of concern and urgency not present in previous election cycles and describing opponent Donald Trump as “a danger to the Republic.” Citing requisite debate necessary under different scenarios, the Chronicle‘s Board went on to explain:
The Chronicle editorial page does not typically endorse early in an election cycle; we prefer waiting for the campaign to play out and for issues to emerge and be addressed. We make an exception in the 2016 presidential race, because the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is not merely political. It is something much more basic than party preference.
An election between the Democrat Clinton and, let’s say, the Republican Jeb Bush or John Kasich or Marco Rubio, even the hyper-ideological Ted Cruz, would spark a much-needed debate about the role of government and the nation’s future, about each candidate’s experience and abilities. But those Republican hopefuls have been vanquished. To choose the candidate who defeated them – fairly and decisively, we should point out – is to repudiate the most basic notions of competence and capability.
Any one of Trump’s less-than-sterling qualities – his erratic temperament, his dodgy business practices, his racism, his Putin-like strongman inclinations and faux-populist demagoguery, his contempt for the rule of law, his ignorance – is enough to be disqualifying. His convention-speech comment, “I alone can fix it,” should make every American shudder. He is, we believe, a danger to the Republic.
After addressing a number of policy differences between Trump and Clinton, the endorsement ended on the subject of “temperament”:
We could go on with issues, including her plans for sensible gun safety and for combatting terrorism – her policy positions are laid out in detail on her campaign web site – but issues in this election are almost secondary to questions of character and trustworthiness. We reject the “cartoon version” of Hillary Clinton (again to borrow her husband’s phrase) in favor of a presidential candidate who has the temperament, the ability and the experience to lead this nation.
These are unsettling times, even if they’re not the dark, dystopian end times that Trump lays out. They require a steady hand. That’s not Donald Trump.
The times also require a person who envisions a hopeful future for this nation, a person who has faith in the strong, prosperous and confident America we hope to bequeath our children and grandchildren, as first lady Michelle Obama so eloquently envisioned in Philadelphia. That’s not Donald Trump’s America.
Romney, endorsed by the paper in 2012, had not himself committed to any endorsement as of 30 July 2016. Another outlet reported on recent remarks during which Romney surmised Trump had a chance at the White House:
“To be honest, it’s very possible in my view that Trump wins,” Romney said. “I wouldn’t think it’d be by a landslide, but I think he could win. I think he could lose, I think he could lose by a landslide. But, I don’t know which it’s going to be and a lot of that depends on what happens to Hillary Clinton. Is there a meltdown moment, or some implosion of some kind?”
The former GOP nominee went on to say that he finds Clinton inauthentic, and that she is attempting act like her husband, former President Bill Clinton, in order to gain votes, calling her an “awful candidate.”
“You can’t forget that Hillary Clinton is a player as well, and she’s an awful candidate. People don’t trust her, they don’t like in my view she comes across as not being at all authentic,” Romney said.
Romney is among several prominent Republicans who have withheld endorsements for Trump; in June and July 2016, both Romney and Libertarian candidates Gary Johnson and Bill Weld discussed the possibility of an endorsement from the former candidate:
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) July 28, 2016
On 30 June 2016, Romney stated that he wouldn’t hesitate to endorse the Johnson/Weld ticket if Weld were at the top:
“I wish Bill Weld were at the top, because I knew Bill Weld as the governor of my state, Massachusetts, and he was a terrific governor,” Romney told CBS News’s John Dickerson in an interview Wednesday at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado.
“I think he would be a great president,” he said of the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential nominee.
Romney—who said Wednesday he would either vote for a third-party candidate or write in his wife’s name in November—was apprehensive about backing the Libertarian ticket, however, due to its presidential nominee, Johnson, the former Republican New Mexico governor.
Johnson speculated that other big names in the GOP might throw their support behind the outlier ticket, including former candidate Jeb Bush:
Earlier this month, Romney said he would probably write in his wife’s name for president, or else pull the lever for a third-party candidate.
Last week, Johnson suggested that his campaign has also been in talks with Jeb Bush. While the early 2016 front-runner has yet to give the Libertarian ticket a dose of Jeb-mentum, his younger brother, Marvin Bush, endorsed Johnson on Wednesday.
If Jeb and Mitt came out publicly for Johnson, they would amplify the Democrats’ argument that Republicans of good conscience cannot responsibly vote for Trump. However, at present, it appears that Johnson’s presence in the race may actually be helping the GOP nominee. In polls where Johnson’s name is offered, a small but not insignificant number of Bernie Sanders supporters switch their votes from Clinton to the guy who wants to abolish Social Security.
Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump traded barbs with one another on Twitter after the Editorial Board’s piece was published, but neither addressed the Houston Chronicle‘s endorsement of Clinton.