Newspapers endorse candidates with such solemnity that you'd think they believe their readers actually care and that elections might actually hang in the balance. "Oh my God, did you see this, Helen? The Times is endorsing Obama. I guess that changes everything."
The endorsements are interesting only to the extent that they reveal the ideologies and biases of the papers that make them. And no paper is going to stray too far from the inclinations of its own readership. The editors are not out to diminish circulation. Especially not in these times.
That the Washington Post endorsed President Obama, then, comes as something less than a shock. The Post is the paper of record in a company town and Obama has been good – real good – for business. Government is just about the only growth business around and the Imperial City and its suburbs are more prosperous than ever.
A bit more surprising is that the Detroit News endorsed Mitt Romney. Detroit is, after all, the Motor City and President Obama is the man who saved the American automobile industry. Just ask him. Or, for that matter, don't bother. He'll tell you anyway. So the News should be inclined to endorse the president since he has been good for business, which should be good for circulation. But if Detroit is not a dying city, it is one step away from the critical list. And the paper seems to realize this and to sense that the Obama agenda will not prevent its demise and may, indeed, hasten it. A realization that is shared, one suspects, by a big chunk of the News’s readership. The unemployment rate in Michigan is 9.3 percent.
President Obama is a dead solid lock, of course, to win Washington and the surrounding counties. He will likely take Detroit and Michigan, too. But it will be a lot closer. The endorsements are not cause, then, but effect.