Say what you will about John Kerry, Philadelphia’s commuter tabloid, the Daily News, today handed the Bush campaign some very bad news in the key state of Pennsylvania with a cover page and two-page editorial blasting the president’s policies, endorsing Kerry for president, and instructing readers how to help elect him.
In the first mainstream newspaper endorsement of this election year, the Daily News, which is owned by the Philadelphia Inquirer Co. and the Knight-Ridder chain, the editors say the Bush administration, “one of the most ideologically driven and divisive administrations in recent times” has been a “failure,” and that the past four year “have been wasted.”
Taking a position on the war that goes well beyond candidate Kerry’s spongy stance, the Daily News says Bush “wasted the opportunity to lead an international movement against al Qaeda, the real terrorist threat, ” instead leading the nation into a “senseless” war against Iraq. It goes on to mock the claim of a handover of sovereignty to Iraqis, saying, “but our troops will remain-and will have to remain for years to come.”
On the domestic side, the endorsement article says Bush took a trillion-dollar surplus left at the end of the Clinton administration “and wasted it with tax cuts for the wealthiest” and that as deficits soared, that a “tax cuts fix everything ideology prevented his administration from changing what clearly is the wrong course.”
The article also attacks Bush on job creation, saying that despite a pickup in hiring, there has been a net job loss during the Bush years, and that “Many of the new jobs pay less.”
On the pro-Kerry side, the editorial is less hard-hitting, but still forceful. It claims Kerry has been “steadfast” in supporting “the principled and intelligent use of American power in the world.” It hails Kerry’s call to roll back tax cuts for those earning more than $200,000 a year, and says he will also “withdraw the special privileges given to polluting industries and the oil companies.
An assistant editorial page editor at the paper, Michael Schefer, says the publication plans to run additional editorials in support of Kerry over the next months and will continue to promote his candidacy. As the editorial puts it, “We will further make the case for Kerry in future editorials. For now, let’s concentrate on the current president and why he must be defeated.”
Schefer says the paper has traditionally been more liberal than its sister publication the Inquirer, which has been growing more conservative in recent years, but he says the earliest it has endorsed a candidate in the past was in 1996, when it ran an endorsement of Bill Clinton on the last day of the Democratic convention.
While the Wednesday front-page editorial’s claims regarding Kerry may be naïve or overly optimistic, the impact of this powerful and unprecedented early endorsement, before the candidate has even been formally nominated, could be profound.
The Daily News has a circulation of 150,000, about half of which is in the city of Philadelphia, and half in the surrounding suburbs. That represents about one in nine or 10 households in a metropolitan area of 5 million.
The region is heavily Democratic, and provided Democrat Al Gore with his margin of victory (200,000 out of 4.6 million votes cast, with Nader receiving 100,000 votes) in Pennsylvania in 2000. The paper notes that half the electorate didn’t vote in that election and says it hopes its editorial stance will convince those many Philadelphia Democrats who sat out the 2000 election to come out for Kerry this time. The editorial, besides endorsing Kerry, gives readers detailed instructions on how to register to vote on line, how to go about getting others to vote, and where to go to get more information on Kerry.
Pennsylvania is one of 18 so-called swing states, where the 2004 election is likely to be decided, and was one of those that Republicans have been placing high hopes on.
The Daily News editorial suggests that Republicans may have a harder time turning the state Red than they had hoped.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of Counterpunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” to be published this fall by Common Courage Press.