With just a little over a month until election day, Donald Trump has racked up zero major newspaper endorsements, a first for any major party nominee in American history.
While newspaper endorsements don’t necessarily change voters’ minds, this year’s barrage of anti-Trump endorsements could actually move the needle come November, experts say.
“It’s significant,” Jack Pitney, professor of government at California’s Claremont McKenna College, told TheWrap. “The cumulative effect of all these defections could have an impact on moderate Republicans.”
Some conservative papers, which have endorsed Republicans for decades, are now breaking with tradition to endorse Hillary Clinton or, at the very least, urge their readers not to vote for Trump.
Several have taken a stand even at the expense of losing subscribers at a time when newspapers are barely staying afloat. Some papers have received death threats.
But for a growing number of newspaper editorial boards, staying on the sidelines is no longer an option.
The Dallas Morning News, which has endorsed every Republican nominee since 1940, was so appalled by the idea of a President Trump that it introduced its Clinton endorsement with this caveat: “We don’t come to this decision easily. This newspaper has not recommended a Democrat for the nation’s highest office since before World War II — if you’re counting, that’s more than 75 years and nearly 20 elections.”
The Cincinnati Enquirer‘s editorial board broke from a nearly century-long tradition of backing Republicans to support Hillary Clinton, telling its readers: “This is not a traditional race, and these are not traditional times.”
The Arizona Republic also endorsed Clinton, the first time the paper backed a Democrat since its founding in 1890. Same for the San Diego Union-Tribune, which hadn’t endorsed a Democratic nominee in its 148-year history.
After the Houston Chronicle endorsed Clinton, the Texas Monthly asked, “Will Any Major Newspapers In Texas Endorse Donald Trump?”
But why limit that question to Texas?
The Chicago Sun-Times reversed a 2012 decision to stop making presidential endorsements, explaining to its readers that “the best way to avert a train wreck is to wave a warning flag as soon as possible.”
USA Today, which had never endorsed a presidential candidate, did not actually endorse anyone this year either, but did publishing a non-endorsement: “Resist the siren song of a dangerous demagogue. By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump,” the paper urged its readers.
And on Wednesday The Atlantic endorsed Clinton, marking just the third time in the magazine’s 160-year history that it has made a presidential endorsement.
The last time The Atlantic took sides in a presidential election was in 1964, when it endorsed Lyndon Baines Johnson for fear of a Barry Goldwater presidency. The other endorsement was 104 years earlier, when it backed Abraham Lincoln.
And it’s not just the papers but also writers who are taking a stand. Last month, a member of The Wall Street Journal’s traditionally conservative editorial board endorsed Clinton, calling Trump the candidate of “white supremacists and swastika devotees.”
Trump did receive four endorsements during the primary, including one from the New York Observer, which is owned by his son-in-law Jared Kushner and the National Enquirer.
But so far Trump has gotten no general election endorsements, a stunning development considering even Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, known best for his head-scratching “Aleppo moment,” has scored a few.
The fact that so many conservative bastions are willing to go out on a limb, experts say, could eventually convince moderate Republicans to break from their own traditions of voting for the GOP.
“Even Michael Chertoff, the man who led the Whitewater investigation against Clinton has endorsed her,” Pitney said. “That should tell you something. This is the first election where I’m not voting Republican.”