Editors at the New Hampshire Union Leader, the state's largest newspaper, apologized for their endorsement of former presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) following Christie's decision to endorse Republican front-runner Donald Trump.
Since the Union Leader's original November 28 endorsement, which described Christie as “a solid, pro-life conservative” who “has the range and type of experience the nation desperately needs,” the newspaper has published numerous editorials that praise and defend Christie and others that attack his opponents. But on February 29, following Christie's endorsement of GOP front-runner Donald Trump on February 26, the paper's publisher John M. McQuaid finally admitted to readers, “Boy, were we wrong” about endorsing Christie:
We endorsed Chris Christie in the New Hampshire Presidential Primary. Despite his baggage, we thought that as a Republican governor in a Democratic-leading state he had the skills and experience the presidency needs (and hasn't had of late). We also thought he had the best chance to take on and face down Donald Trump.
Watching Christie kiss the Donald's ring this weekend -- and make excuses for the man Christie himself had said was unfit for the presidency -- demonstrated how wrong we were. Rather than standing up to the bully, Christie bent his knee. In doing so, he rejected the very principles of his campaign that attracted our support.
Voters here apparently knew better than we. Most rejected Christie but divided their votes among several others, leaving Trump to claim victory. And now, despite specifically telling us that he would never endorse him, Christie is backing Trump.
After its initial endorsement, the Union-Leader hyped many of Christie's harmful policy stances. For example, the editorial board justified the governor's flawed social security plan that would ultimately hurt low-income Americans and regurgitated Christie's overstated claims about his anti-terrorism record.
Editors also failed to heed warnings about Christie coming from members of the New Jersey press. The Star-Ledger, New Jersey's largest newspaper, retracted the 2012 endorsement it gave Christie for governor after the Bridgegate scandal came to light. The paper told readers the endorsement was “regrettable” and offered a warning to others considering Christie:
Yes, we knew Christie was a bully. But we didn't know his crew was crazy enough to put people's lives at risk in Fort Lee as a means to pressure the mayor. We didn't know he would use Hurricane Sandy aid as a political slush fund. And we certainly didn't know that Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer was sitting on a credible charge of extortion by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.
Even before this scandal train got rolling, this endorsement was a close call and a split vote among the editorial board. We regard Christie as the most overrated politician in the country, at least until now, a man who is better at talking than governing. We criticized him for trashing the working poor, for his tea party approach to the environment, for his opposition to gay marriage and a livable minimum wage. And so on.
Now, the governor is in a free fall in the polls, and liberals everywhere are rejoicing. And yes, it is delicious to see a bully like him lose the swagger.
But be careful. Because if you turn your focus to the presidential race in 2016, you might wind up facing the same dilemma we did in the fall.
After the Union Leader announced its endorsement, Star-Ledger editor Tom Moran contacted the paper's editorial board, which he concluded knew “almost nothing about [Christie's] record as governor.” In speaking to Moran, Union Leader editorial page editor Grant Bosse admitted the New Hampshire paper did not take an extensive look into Christie's background and confirmed Moran's worst fears about the presidential race: “It's all about performance, not substance.”