On the eve of the Democratic primary in South Carolina and the Republican contest in Florida, the New York Times editorial board endorses the two part front runners, Sens. Hillary Clinton and John McCain. The most striking feature of the Times endorsement for Clinton is its praise for the entire Democratic field:
"Hillary Clinton, the brilliant if at times harsh-sounding senator from New York; and Barack Obama, the incandescent if still undefined senator from Illinois. The remaining long shot, John Edwards, has enlivened the race with his own brand of raw populism."
The editors praise Obama's inspirational and rhetorical brilliance and say the choice comes down to experience.
"The potential upside of a great Obama presidency is enticing, but this country faces huge problems, and will no doubt be facing more that we can’t foresee. The next president needs to start immediately on challenges that will require concrete solutions, resolve, and the ability to make government work. Mrs. Clinton is more qualified, right now, to be president."
The editorial for McCain is more of an anti-endorsement for the GOP brand. "Senator John McCain of Arizona is the only Republican who promises to end the George Bush style of governing from and on behalf of a small, angry fringe."
The choicest words are reserved for the single-issue candidacy of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, currently tanking in the polls and probably soon relegated to the asterisk column. The editors slam Giuliani as "a narrow, obsessively secretive, vindictive man who saw no need to limit police power" whose "arrogance and bad judgment are breathtaking."
Major newspaper endorsements probably mean very little to the average voter, but, definitely carry more weight amongst the chattering class and the mainstream media. Major media endorsements probably help to frame the debate around the candidates and shape their talking points—last night's Republican debate featured a number of questions that were raised in the Times' endorsements.