One of the South’s major Democratic newspapers-a media organ which endorsed Barack Obama four years ago without batting an eye-has shocked the political establishment in Tennessee by endorsing Mitt Romney for President in this morning’s paper. For those outside of Tennessee, it may not seem such a surprise for a Southern newspaper to endorse the Republican nominee for President, but The Tennessean is one of the remaining holdovers in this State from the not-so-long-ago days of Democratic domination of all things west of the Cumberland Plateau. The paper only endorses Republicans when its editors feel they really have no other option, and they’ll side with the Democrats whenever they feel they can get away with it. After all, Tennessean endorsements of Democrats in recent years have had little impact on the State electorate’s desire to vote Republican. Nonetheless, this morning’s endorsement by an outlet which has long been seen by many conservatives as a kind of unofficial mouthpiece of the Tennessee Democratic establishment prompted the State’s Lieutenant Governor, Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville), to remark on the development with one word on Facebook-he simply wrote “wow.”
A read of the paper’s column giving its official nod to Romney shows that it is far less of an endorsement of Romney than a lack of endorsement of President Obama. Indeed, the editorial board wrote that it wasn’t an easy decision for them-they essentially admitted that they agreed with the President’s policies on social issues and even on health care, though the board decried the manner in which the health care law was passed. The paper admits that the economy is the President’s baby, and that it could (and should) be his undoing. It was an editorial which basically said “we don’t want to do this, but we are holding our nose because we feel we have no choice.” The piece ended by calling on Governor Romney to “be the man who governed Massachusetts,” in other words, be the man who governs like the legislative branch is 90% Democratic and that he is the little Republican island in the Deep Blue Sea. Washington is most definitely not Boston, and The Tennessean has to know this.
This writer is compelled to admit that Mitt Romney does have a moderate-as opposed to a conservative-record. Further, Romney comes from a family of moderates and his father once did everything that he could to destroy Barry Goldwater, and wasn’t known to like Ronald Reagan particularly well, either. Indeed, it was for these reasons that this writer was not at all keen on Mitt Romney as the primaries progressed, and let the whole world know it. Mitt Romney isn’t his father, however and he isn’t running for Governor of Massachusetts or even Michigan, but for President of the United States. His choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate was a clear message to conservatives that said “I know that I cannot win and I cannot govern without you.” Mitt Romney can’t be expected to behave like someone he isn’t, but he may be more conservative than he was ever in a position to let on in a State like Massachusetts. Such a possibility is something that The Tennessean’s editors are very much aware of, which is why they made what would otherwise be considered an extremely bizarre comment at the end of their endorsement.
Media reaction to the President’s re-election campaign failing to “catch fire” has been a mixture of anger, such as Chris Matthews’ reaction after the first presidential debate on MSNBC (which has become the Democrats’ unofficial television outlet), to the press pretending that the President is doing better than he actually is-as CNN or The New York Times frequently do-to bewilderment that more of the country does not embrace Barack Obama. The Tennessean, which has long been a kind of pseudo-Democratic political print organ, has finally reached the final phase of dealing with defeat-acceptance. Further, they acknowledge that the President has failed on the single most important issue of his presidency, and that is dealing with the economic crisis (some would say collapse) that brought him to power.
In no way does a newspaper endorsement guarantee a Romney victory, but the paper which has given that endorsement making such a radical departure from its normal character may be sign of the larger direction of the country.