March 8, 2016

For the first time that anybody at the (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) Sun Sentinel can recall, the paper told its readers that none of the Republican candidates for president earned its endorsement.

“I hate that we didn’t endorse,” editorial page editor Rosemary O’Hara said. “We take this very seriously, we don’t take it lightly at all. We offer endorsements not because readers always agree with us but so they know what we think and why we think it.”

The Tuesday editorial takes issue with all four of the remaining GOP candidates.

We cannot endorse businessman Donald Trump, hometown Sen. Marco Rubio or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz because they are unqualified to be president. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is the best of the bunch, but if you measure a candidate by the caliber of his campaign, Kasich’s lack of traction and organization make a vote for him count for little.”

The Sun Sentinel urged former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to run last year, and he will appear on the Florida ballot next week even though he has put his campaign on hold.

The editorial board was especially critical of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio:

Remember that he has almost no experience and has done little but run for office. Then, when he gets in office, he doesn’t go to work very much. He holds the worst attendance record in the U.S. Senate.

Because Rubio has failed to do his job as a senator, broken the promises he made to Floridians and backed away from his lone signature piece of legislation on immigration, we cannot endorse him for president.

The paper said Trump is “absurdly vague on how he would ‘make America great again'” and noted that “Cruz scares us.”

Newspapers have endorsed candidates at least as far back as 1860, when the New York Times backed Lincoln and failed to foresee the oncoming Civil War.

For decades, newspapers largely endorsed Republicans but more recently have leaned toward Democrats, Micah Cohen explained in a 2011 column for The New York Times.

There is little evidence showing that endorsements affect the outcome of national races. In 1976, 1996 and 2004, Cohen says, the winner of the most daily newspaper endorsements still lost the election. Endorsements that arrive closer to election day may be losing their punch in states like Florida, where growing numbers of voters cast their ballots early.

It is especially difficult to link newspaper endorsements to success in presidential elections where voters have a better sense of the candidates than they may have in local school board or judges races.

“Endorsements are a chance for newspapers to give an assessment of a candidate based on the values that the newspaper stands for,” O’Hara said. She fully expects her paper to make a recommendation this fall. “Oh yes, I think this is an anomaly,” O’Hara said.

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
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