Clock running out on GOP endorsement

Folks, not much has changed since my Sunday column with regard to our upcoming endorsements. As you’ll recall, our plan is to endorse in the GOP primary Sunday (Jan. 13), and in the Democratic on the following Sunday. In each case, that means we’ll be publishing the Sunday before the respective primaries.

Even though we’ve had our invitations out to the major candidates since
last summer, only McCain, Brownback, Huckabee and Biden chose to take
advantage of the opportunity before the last minute. That makes this year somewhat unusual for us — an unfortunate result of the compressed primary schedule this year, which caused some campaigns to avoid even thinking seriously about South Carolina before this morning. In 2000, McCain, Bush and Keyes all came in with time to spare. In 2004, Edwards, Lieberman, Dean, Gephardt and Carol Moseley-Brown all came in early enough to allow careful consideration. Only Kerry waited until the very last minute, which created a problem (since we didn’t think we should deliberate until we’d heard from him), one which we vowed to do our best to avoid this time.

Here’s what I sent my publisher earlier today by way of an update, since he and I didn’t have a chance to speak today. Since I’ve been tied up with internal editor stuff today, keeping me from posting as much as I did yesterday, I thought I’d just go ahead and share it with y’all as well:

I need to tell you these three things:

  • No word from any of the campaigns yet on interview appointments. At this point, the only Republican I’m still trying on is Romney. It would be a mistake on his part not to come in, so I still have some hopes in that quarter — but it likely will be very short notice when it comes. Giuliani is apparently not going to spend any more time in SC (other than going to the debate in MB tomorrow). Thompson had wanted to come in, but has apparently changed his mind, which is OK … that’s one we would have agreed to on request, but were not particularly seeking. Remember, we’ve already talked with McCain and Huckabee.
  • Now that they’re all turning their attention to SC — and now that Sen. Clinton is NOT going to skip our state (as most folks thought yesterday), I’m optimistic about getting them [the top Democratic candidates] in next week. Still no appointments, though. With things changing this fast, everybody is trying to keep their options open as to where they want to be when. Among the Democrats, the ones that most concern us are Clinton and Obama. The only Democrat we’ve already interviewed was Joe Biden, and he dropped out last week.
  • As discussed, we’ve decided to release our GOP endorsement (which will run Sunday) early on We’ll put it out there at 3 p.m. Saturday. We’ll do the same the following week with the Democrats. At Mark Lett’s [executive editor, the guy over the newsroom] request, I’ve given the newsroom all my contact numbers in case of media inquiries regarding the endorsement coming through the newsroom. I’ll give Kim Dalglish [the newspaper’s marketing director, who might also receive inquiries, and who might want to promote the endorsements] a heads-up on all this as well.

Remember, our [editorial board] discussion about our GOP endorsement will be at 9:30 a.m. Friday (UNLESS Romney agrees to come in, and the only time he can come is Friday). I’ll be writing that editorial and a column, and paginating the page, starting the instant that meeting is over.

That schedule — assuming everything goes well — is about as tight as we can make it, and still have a page out in time for all board members to read the proofs and raise any questions or problems. That’s standard operating procedure with every day’s page, but it is particularly important to avoid shortcuts on such a high-profile endorsement. Procedurally, something like this is sort of the opposite of this blog, which is a more or less stream-of-consciousness thing that no one looks at but me before it’s published. Since we operate by consensus on editorials, I don’t want any member of the board to feel left out on this. (Warren Bolton will be coming in on his day off, by the way, since we were unable to get this done before Friday, thanks to the campaigns’ procrastination.)

For more on this subject, I refer you to an comment I posted on an earlier post, in response to something Doug Ross had said:

Doug (way back up at the top),
transparency has always been my main goal in writing columns, and that
goes double for my blog. Why on Earth would I spend this time doing
this otherwise?

No invitation has been extended to Ron Paul
— or to Dennis Kucinich, Tom Tancredo, Mike Gravel or Duncan Hunter.
But had any of them wanted to come in over the last few months, we
would have made time. We’ve already had our interviews with McCain and Huckabee.
They did a wild and crazy thing that too few campaigns have done — the[y]
accepted back when invitations were first extended to them and the
other main candidates. Late summer, as I recall. (You’ll recall that Brownback and Biden also came in — before dropping out.)

Giuliani, Romney, Clinton, Obama, Edwards and Thompson were all
invited way back then, and invitations have been re-extended since then.

At this point, Giuliani seems to have decided to skip SC, so I’ll be
surprised if he comes in before we make our decision on Friday. The one
candidate I’m MOST concerned with getting in here before Friday, then,
is Romney. I must have talked to four different people in his camp
yesterday (some more than once), reiterating our invitation.

For Romney (and, if a miracle happens, for Giuliani), we will sweep
all other work aside to make time. And BECAUSE we’re trying to keep
these last few hours open for them, I’m not going to bug Thompson any more (I asked again yesterday when Mr. Thompson was here);
nor am I going to extend a last-minute invitation to Dr. Paul. If he
had asked before this week to come in (as Thompson did, as recently as
the last couple of weeks, although he offered no times, which is why I
gave them another chance yesterday), he would have been welcomed.

That’s what I know as of now.

11 thoughts on “Clock running out on GOP endorsement

  1. Brad Warthen

    After skimming back over what I just wrote, it occurs to me to remind y’all of what I said near the end of the Sunday column:

        Do I make my decision solely on the basis of a single meeting? Of
    course not. But some of my colleagues don’t pay the kind of attention
    to these candidates that I do day after day; that’s not what they’re
    paid to do. They come in with relatively fresh perspectives.
    while it doesn’t happen often, I’ve been known to change my mind in
    these meetings. I’m wary of this, and reluctant to give it too much
    weight. But if I don’t give it some weight, what indeed is the point of the interview?

    Coming in for a meeting isn’t technically a prerequisite for a candidate to be endorsed, not coming in certainly doesn’t help. And we definitely take it as an important clue to just how much importance a candidate attaches to South Carolina.

  2. Craig

    Why wouldn’t you have extended an invitation to Ron Paul? He has received the fourth-most votes so far on the Republican side, ahead of Thompson and Giuliani, if you add together votes in Iowa and in New Hampshire.

  3. weldon VII

    “Thompson had wanted to come in, but has apparently changed his mind, which is OK … that’s one we would have agreed to on request, but were not particularly seeking.”
    If that sentence means what I think it does, taken with the other comments from your post, you’d move a mountain to talk to Romney, but Thompson needs to scale at least a small hill to talk to you. And poor old Ron Paul couldn’t get your ear even if he managed to scale Mt. Everest.
    I had no idea you were so important. If my posting here has been too much of a bother, be assured you have my heartfelt regrets.

  4. bgbest

    You’ve already told Thompson your opinion of him, with your “Do the Right Thing: Drop Out and Endorse MCain,” column. And I’m no Thompson fan. You think he’s kissing your tail? Dream On.

  5. Brad Warthen

    weldon, I think I was clear enough: Before this week, we’d have talked to any candidate who wanted to come in. We’ve been doing so since August. As for Mr. Thompson, we specifically invited him, repeatedly — as recently as yesterday, when his wife came in with reformed blogger Joshua Gross.
    Now, we have one full day left. There are two GOP candidates who still have a chance to get the nomination with whom we have not met. It’s been made pretty clear that Giuliani is no longer sufficiently interested in SC to make the effort. That leaves Romney as our top interview priority.
    What’s so hard to understand about that?

  6. weldon VII

    Only the “one full day left” part, Brad. The primary itself is Jan. 19, ten days off. Doing your endorsement six days in advance offers candidates only a three-day window between New Hampshire and your deadline, which based on “one full day left” must be Friday for Sunday’s paper.
    These people are running for the presidency of the United States, not dogcatcher. You’ve given them a pretty tight squeeze for the sake of getting your endorsement done almost a week in advance.
    When the endorsement could run the day before the primary, and the race for the most powerful position in the world happens only once every four years, it seems to me The State could bend over backward to give each candidate as much time as possible to make his or her case in person to The State’s editorial board.
    But if going the extra mile as a convenience to the people running for president and as a public service to the people of South Carolina is less important than the bottom line, so be it.
    I just have a hard time imagining that if Fred Thompson showed up at your office Friday unannounced, you’d tell him eight days ahead of the primary that he’s too late and you don’t have time to see him.

  7. Brad Warthen

    weldon, you just said it — these guys are running for president of the United States. If they were running for dogcatcher, I’d have no problem running the endorsement on a Tuesday or later.
    But whether it’s a top local or statewide issue, or a big endorsement, we always do it on a Sunday whenever possible. That’s when our greatest readership is. And I have announced the precise date numerous times now.
    Take note of when the major papers in Iowa and New Hampshire did their endorsements. None of them waited as late as we did. We thought about doing it earlier, too, but didn’t want to do it without giving the candidates every chance to come in.
    Once again, we first extended these endorsements several months ago. There has been plenty of time; all of these people have been in the state at various times. I don’t like the situation a bit. But I’m not about to diminish the importance of the editorial by running it midweek.

  8. Karen McLeod

    I hope Romney comes in. I’d like to hear your take on him. I could wish the same of Ron Paul. It would be nice to hear what he has to say (from what I get off the internet, he has no true understanding of what it means to be dirt poor, or a minority, or anything but a rich, privileged doctor. I know people have bad days, but sitting down and talking to someone can humanize that person a lot.

  9. Terri

    “There are two GOP candidates who still have a chance to get the nomination with whom we have not met. It’s been made pretty clear that Giuliani is no longer sufficiently interested in SC to make the effort. That leaves Romney as our top interview priority.”
    That says it right there. How is Giuliani and Romney the only two left who still have a chance? Thompson has as much of a chance as Guiliani. You’re an idoit and full of yourself. I hope none of them show up.

  10. Rachel Farer

    This is an easy one. John McCain is the only one with the experience and credibility to lead us to victory in the war on terror. He is also the only fiscal conservative besides Ron Paul.
    Worry about immigration in 2012. We need to win this war first.

  11. weldon VII

    Well, OK, Brad. Fair for one’s fair for all. I just got off on one of my “now wait a dang minute there” jags because of the phraseology “that’s not one we were particularly seeking” with respect to Thompson. I’d like to think you extended each of them exactly the same invitation at the same time to meet with you. That phrase didn’t sound like that, so I started typing.
    Still, since The State is a daily newspaper, not a weekly, a deadline for endorsement eight days in advance of the primary seems a bit early to me, no matter what every other daily did, because a lot can happen in a week.
    But, like I said, as long as everybody has the same chance to come in, who am I to complain?

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