Democratic endorsement delayed

Much to my disappointment, we will not be ready to endorse in the S.C. Democratic Primary on Sunday as planned.

As blog readers should be aware, the only Democratic candidate we have had an endorsement interview with thus far is Joe Biden, and being the current-events whizzes y’all are, you know he dropped out after Iowa. Now if you’re wondering why he’s the only one to have come in before the last-minute crunch (he last visited us on Oct. 1), that’s a good question. If you come up with an answer, let me know. All the major candidates have had standing invitations since well before the first of the year.

Anyway, we have not taken the position that "You should have done your homework before the January crush rather than waiting until the last minute." (No way I could have any moral standing there, as I always do stuff at the last minute, which is one reason I’m in the deadline-oriented newspaper biz.) We’re still doing our best to get folks in here. We’ve grown accustomed in recent elections to having that opportunity, and while we realize the insane front-loaded primary schedule we have this year is pulling them in far more directions than we’re used to, we’re not comfortable with endorsing someone we haven’t had the chance to interview as a board.

As of now, the one remaining candidate we have scheduled is Barack Obama — on Monday morning, MLK Day. His campaign says he won’t be east of Nevada before that. We continue to hope for something earlier if his plans change, but right now this is what we’ve got. I’m hoping rather fervently that we can get Hillary Clinton in before Obama, so that our decision won’t be further delayed, but no time has been set yet. (That this is on MLK Day is ironic, because it underlines the fact that Biden and Chris Dodd were here last MLK Day, campaigning their rear ends off, months before Obama and Clinton entered the race as automatic front-runners, thus crowned by the inside-the-Beltway media without having lifted a finger to seek the votes of South Carolinians.)

As those are the front-runners, those are the two we are really pressing at this point. Our standing invitation remains open to John Edwards (for the rest of this week anyway), but as time runs out, we’re pushing the ones who have the greatest chance of actually becoming president. And as I said last, week, South Carolina is now about these two candidates, as the GOP one is about McCain and Huckabee (don’t look at me; look at the polls).

This is not what I wanted. I wanted both of the endorsements to run on Sunday, as the McCain one did. That gives maximum exposure to something that has high reader interest (our endorsement was the top-rated item on over the weekend, I believe), and also gives some time for letters and other reaction before the vote.

But right now, our best-case scenario is that our endorsement will run on Wednesday, Jan. 23. We would also put it online early, as of 3 p.m. Tuesday, as we did with the Republican one.

Speaking of the Republican endorsement — we entertained the idea of delaying that one as well. I brought it up to my colleagues late last week. But the situation was different. We had already met with the two front-runners, and the remaining candidates showed little interest in coming in, even late. No campaign suggested, as Sen. Obama’s did, coming in at the first of the next week. If we tried to go ahead on schedule with the Democratic endorsement the way we did with the GOP, we’d do so with a dearth of input.

(Personally — speaking only for myself here, not my colleagues — I am really counting on these meetings to help me make up my mind. Y’all know I always liked McCain, and hoped that was where we would end up as a group — those meetings for me were about testing my preference through dialogue with him and Huckabee, my second choice. With the Democratic race, I truly don’t know which one I’d pick right now even if I could wave a wand and make it so without regard to the other members of the board.)

So that’s the way things stand. I’ll tell you if I learn more.

18 thoughts on “Democratic endorsement delayed

  1. Doug Ross

    How can a paper endorse candidates from both parties? Does that mean if McCain does not win the nomination, your second choice is the Democrat you endorse? Or is the second or third best Republican still going to get the final nod?
    The endorsement should be for the one person who you think is the best Presidential candidate.

  2. Gordon Hirsch

    Brad … nothing personal, but maybe they’re not bothering to kiss your ring anymore because they know newspaper endorsements don’t carry much weight with the voting public.
    Blame that on the McClatchy’s of the world, and there lack of investment in news that makes a difference. If the news is weak, so is the paper’s credibility and influence.
    That’s a shame, considering how hard you work at it.

  3. Brad Warthen

    How can we endorse in both primaries? Because South Carolina is having two primaries. Why would we state a preference in one and not in the other?
    And Gordon, I don’t think that’s it. Not after the stream of candidates we had through here in 2004 — Gephardt, Moseley-Brown, Lieberman, Edwards, Dean, Kerry. The difference was the schedule. They were undivided in their priorities that time. This time we’ve got all this competition from other states. Last time, only the first two named above came really early, the way Biden did this time. The rest came in the last week or two.
    Also, a Saturday primary is a killer. Last time, we had trouble with ONE of the candidates — Kerry. He didn’t come in until the Friday before the Tuesday primary. (Howard Dean came in earlier the same day, but that was his second visit.) But that still allowed us to do a Sunday endorsement before the primary.
    This time, the candidates are thinking, hey, we’ve got a whole week in SC after Nevada. But for us to do a Sunday endorsement (which I would much prefer), we need them earlier than that.
    Anyway, as I said, the Obama interview is set — it’s just later than I wanted. I fully expect Sen. Clinton to come in, we just haven’t set the time yet.

  4. Pfc Mason Andreasson

    I can understand you having a slightly difficult decision between Obama and Edwards – but if Clinton is still in the running for your endorsement –
    —my only question would be WHY?
    Her performance in tonight’s debate made me ill. Despite the spin the pundits at MSNBC tried to put on it, she had her worst performance to date.
    To Doug Ross (above) who asked why newspapers endorse a candidate from each party, it’s a VERY common practice.
    When the General election is upon us, the editors will select their candidate of choice from only one of the parties.
    Brad rocks!

  5. weldon VII

    What a joke. Your’e giving the Democrats more time than you gave the Republicans in a state that usually votes GOP.
    The State must be a biased gaggle of carpetbagging goons who impersonate journalists but actually worship graven images of Steve Spurrier illuminated by garnet lava lamps and black lights.
    Gosh, Brad, your post above didn’t even mention the favoritism shown by your willingness to wait on the Democrats when you wouldn’t wait on the Republicans. I guess you just didn’t notice. All you pointed out was that the Democrat endorsement wouldn’t get to as many people as soon as your GOP nod did.
    If the candidates won’t visit in a timely fashion, why can’tt the four editors on your board, the ones who work their fingers to the bone churning out all those columns and pages, just make a few phone calls to do the necessary interviews?
    Yes, I’m being sarcastic about the work. I know from years of experience how little time it actually requires to do a page in Quark.
    Geez, Brad, for the sake of fair play, you could just watch debates or read debate transcripts to make an endorsement decision.
    But no! The precious Democrats get whatever time you can extend them, because you apparently have no concept of fair play when your standard MSM pre-programmed tilt to the left kicks in.
    That’s P-A-R-T-I-S-A-N-S-H-I-P, not journalism. You’re giving the candidates in one party an advantage the players in the other party didn’t have.
    That makes you, Mr. Unparty, a classic hypocrite.
    My wife and I will be dropping our subscription when it expires. McClatchy has transformed what used to be a decent newspaper into a semi-professional joke that relies on simplistic, oversized graphics and white space to impress the intellectually challenged readers waiting on tenterhooks for Britney Spears’ endorsement.

  6. Doug Ross

    Help me understand the “endorse a candidate from both parties” concept.
    Will you be using the same criteria for the Democrats as you did for Republicans – i.e. the primary reason you supported McCain was his position on the Iraq War and the War on Terror. Will that be your main issue when it comes to Democrats? If it is, I don’t have any clue who you would endorse.
    Are you endorsing the candidate who you believe best fits the “standard” qualities of the party or the best candidate overall regardless of the party?
    I don’t see how someone like Brad could be such a gung ho McCain supporter and then be allowed to participate in the selection of the best candidate from the Democratic Party. It would be like asking Steve Spurrier to pick the starting quarterback for Clemson.
    Endorse the one best candidate for President. That would be the Unparty approach, wouldn’t it?
    And I second Weldon’s comments. In this age of easy access to information, a sit down interview hardly seems necessary to make a decision on a candidate. 99.9% of voters will not have that luxury. It’s almost scary to think that a brief interview would be able to sway the thoughts of what should be the most informed people.

  7. Liro

    It was those BRIEF interviews …when W was fuelled by “two cups of coffee” and Mc.Cain was having a down day that led to the last big mistake!

  8. Brad Warthen

    Sorry, Doug and weldon, but I believe in giving any candidate who WANTS to come in the chance to do so. It’s why we waited until Friday afternoon (past our deadline for having the relevant pages done, much less deciding — a three-hour process that time — and writing) for John Kerry in 04, even though I doubted we’d endorse him. He deserved his shot.
    So did the Republicans last week, which is why I suggested delaying that one, but no one saw sufficient reason to do so, since Giuliani and Romney were making it amply plain they had no interest. And besides, we’d already interviewed the two people leading in South Carolina.
    With the Democrats, we haven’t interviewed anyone who’s still on the ballot. Add to that the fact that the Obama folks have indicated for a long time that he wanted to come in, and in the end they offered this time (Monday).
    One more point — while I can’t speak for my colleagues on this (as with the Republicans, I’ve avoided asking them their preferences in advance; this is the sort of thing I talk to y’all about more than I do to them), speaking for myself, I’m very torn between Obama and Clinton. I’ll get into the reasons why in my Sunday column.
    And Doug, I fail to understand what you fail to understand about endorsing in any contested statewide electoral contest that occurs. The notion of endorsing in one party’s primary and stating a preference in the other just would be a really crazy idea to me.
    We’ll endorse the one best candidate in the fall. At least, I hope we get the chance; I hope it’s not, yet again, a matter of choosing the least bad. In the meantime, we’re going to say what we think on the way to winnowing the field. It’s just inconceivable that we would say, “We want this one on the ballot in November, but we don’t care who the other one is.” When ONE of them WILL be president, why would we remain silent about the process of choosing either of them?
    Oh, and by the way, I don’t back McCain because of the war on terror, even though he and I agree on it. I was just as strongly for him long before 9/11. And if our endorsement HAD been about Iraq, the decision would not have gone as smoothly as it did.
    As I get older, for me it’s less and less about this issue or that one, but about character: Do you trust this person to deal with something that you can’t even foresee?
    An election between two candidates you don’t much like on the character scale MIGHT turn on one issue, as when we held our noses and went with Bush over Kerry. But we aren’t in that position in either of these primaries, as I see it at this point, and I really, really hope we’re not at that point in November.

  9. Wally Altman

    The Democrats get “more time” because 1) their primary is a week later and 2) one of the candidates bothered to ASK to be interviewed late. The Republicans who weren’t yet interviewed didn’t bother. Aside from that, it’s a comparative disadvantage for the Democrats that the endorsement goes out later, since it won’t be on Sunday and consequently won’t reach as many readers.
    The State’s editorial board will select the candidate who, among the competing Democrats, they feel is best able to execute the office of President of the United States; this is no different from how they chose McCain on the other side. They make two endorsements because there are two separate elections. Come November, they will endorse the one best candidate.
    The sit-down interview is helpful because it gives the editorial board a chance to question the candidates in detail, to go deeper than what you get out of stump speeches, debates, and sound bites. It also gives them the chance to ask questions specific to South Carolina issues, which wouldn’t be addressed otherwise.

  10. bud

    As I get older, for me it’s less and less about this issue or that one, but about character: Do you trust this person to deal with something that you can’t even foresee?
    You’re not serious are you? You have an incredible ability to overlook McCain’s many ethical lapses including:
    > adultery
    > Keating 5
    > tacitly agreeing that Senator Clinton is a “bitch”
    > an inability to call down the president for his disgusting signing statements.
    > questionable selling of campaign donars information in an apparent violation of their trust.
    > pandering to right-wing extremists on a variety of issues such as the Confederate flag and, of late, immigration.
    > And now we have a new charge that he may have exaggerated his war record. (This is probably not true but it’s something we should at least keep an open mind about).
    Of course there is his age. (This is not a character issue but certainly an important consideration when a person has to make important decisions).
    If character is the primary consideration then anyone on the Dem side is preferable to John McCain. Just because he may be a war hero does not make him squeaky clean.

  11. Doug Ross

    > The notion of endorsing in one party’s
    > primary and stating a preference in the
    > other just would be a really crazy idea to
    > me.
    Then you are calling most voters crazy then. Because most voters are going to stick with the nominee of their party and not specify a preference from the other party.
    I could understand the endorsement if the people doing the endorsing were different for each party (and then making a consensus pick in November). But how can a guy who has backed McCain for eight years be an objective voice in the selection of the best Democratic candidate? That is craziness in my view.

  12. weldon VII

    So you waited past deadline for a Democrat four years ago, too, but “no one saw sufficient reason” to give Republicans a little more time this year, despite your suggestion to delay things.
    Well, thanks for your suggestion, anyway, Brad.
    It tickles me the Democrats always show up late. It doesn’t tickle me The State alters its process to suit them.
    Wally, I realize full well that the Democrats originally had a week longer because their primary is a week later, with a Friday deadline for publication Sunday with the primary six days later.
    But that shouldn’t mean they get even more time. Obama has three or four days no Republican had. Once the editorial board has swooned over him in person, Clinton will have until hell freezes over to show up because a sudden urge to be fair will sweep over the board.
    When you’re working on an endorsement The State actually cares about, whether that’s the case for Brad or not, the rules change.
    Besides, the more Democrats The State lures in, the more chances someone at The State will have to encourage someone to join the paper in spitting uselessly across a century at Pitchfork Ben Tillman.

  13. weldon VII

    “And now we have a new charge that he (McCain) may have exaggerated his war record. (This is probably not true but it’s something we should at least keep an open mind about).”
    2) If it’s probably not true, WHY BRING IT UP? Are you inventing push-poll blogging?

  14. bud

    Here’s the article that appeared in the State. As I say it’s probably not true. But what if it is? We’d be annointed a man who was a traiter rather than a hero.
    McCain angrily responds to flier about his war record
    A flier from a group called Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain accuses the Republican presidential hopeful of betraying other American prisoners of war to save himself while he was held captive in Vietnam.
    The flier has been distributed in South Carolina, according to the
    campaign, which had obtained a copy from a Chester County newspaper. Campaign officials didn’t know Tuesday how many had been sent to S.C. homes.
    The flier contained no contact information. And the Web site associated with the group’s name was inaccessible.
    The campaign and friends of McCain angrily came to his defense Tuesday.
    “Half truths and misinformation,” said Orson Swindle, a Navy veteran who lives in Virginia and who was in the same Vietnamese prison camp as McCain for six years.
    “This has been going on since 1973.”
    The McCain campaign has set up what it calls a Truth Squad to deal with negative attacks.
    Eight years ago, McCain’s South Carolina campaign was hurt by an infamous push poll that suggested McCain had fathered an African-American baby out of wedlock. He and his wife had adopted a baby from Bangladesh.
    “What this does to families who are being used like this is absolutely despicable,” said S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell, a member of McCain’s campaign team. “We recognize this mailing for the garbage it is.”

  15. weldon VII

    Let’s see: There’s no contact number on the flier, and the Web site’s inaccessible, but the group is called Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain.
    Let me expand my original comment: Why did ANYBODY bring it up?

  16. Jack

    Why should the Democratic candidates pay any attention to The State and your interviews? Your paper has been a reactionary rag for longer than my lifetime(56 years). The last Democrat y’all endorsed was Harry Truman in 1948.
    Your picks for Governor and President, Bush and Sanford, were for the worst president in United States history and the weirdest, most ineffective governor in our history.
    The 45% of this state who are not Republicans couldn’t care less who you endorse. You’ve proven your voice is worthy of being ignored.

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