Newspaper endorsements find easy choice between Warner and Gillespie

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RICHMOND, Va. — Unlike in last year’s gubernatorial race, newspapers in Virginia seem to have no trouble endorsing senatorial candidates in this fall’s election. While several newspapers refused to endorse both Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli for governor in 2013, they have no problems deciding between Mark Warner and Ed Gillespie for U.S. Senate.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch, which refused to endorse last year, ran an editorial in favor of Republican challenger Gillespie. So did the Washington Times. The Virginian-Pilot and the Washington Post, on the other hand, called for the reelection of Warner, the Democratic incumbent.

VCU journalism professor Bill Oglesby believes that unlike the newspaper endorsements or non-endorsements in last year’s election, the endorsements this year do not have a serious importance for the outcome of the race. He said with the decline of newspaper circulations, editorials don’t really sway the vote either way.

“At one time most everybody subscribed to one of two daily papers at least and some subscribed to both. Today many people don’t subscribe to either paper,” said Oglesby.

“For instance in the Times-Dispatch, the people who read the Times-Dispatch read the editorial page and know that they agree with it. They probably already supported Ed Gillespie, for the most part,” said Oglesby. “The people who read it and don’t support their editorial position, it’s for the most part not going to change their minds. So there’s very little indication that it moves the needle.”

The Danville Register & Bee made a change this year by endorsing Democrat Mark Warner as opposed to last year’s endorsement of Libertarian Robert Sarvis. Deirdre Condit, chair of the VCU Department of Political Science, explained the difficulty of a third-party candidacy and why with or without newspaper endorsements, it would be difficult for Sarvis to gain 10 percent of the vote.

“Third-party candidacy is very difficult in the United States. It’s difficult because of structural issues, how we created the third-party system, and it’s difficult because of the economic funding flow which is now heightened by Citizens United that controls elections,” said Condit, referring to the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down campaign finance reform.

In the following, read about the endorsements of Virginia’s leading newspapers in the senatorial race:

Richmond Times-Dispatch

RTDThe Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote that Warner’s vote for the Affordable Care Act should disqualify him and therefore endorsed Gillespie.

The newspaper wrote that “Ed Gillespie has run a skilled and substantive campaign, one that has offered reasonable, realistic solutions to problems that have for too long festered and multiplied.”

The Times-Dispatch also wrote that Warner’s support for senate majority leader Harry Reid “has ensured the gridlock that Virginia’s senior senator so often laments.”

The editorial board concluded that “We endorse Gillespie because his philosophy embraces free markets and free people, the ultimate American solutions, and because we are confident he will serve as an able and honest senator.”

In addition, the Times-Dispatchasked the three candidates to make their case directly to voters and open its pages for candidate statements.

The Virginian-Pilot

PilotThe Virginian-Pilot wrote that “Virginia voters would do well to send Warner back for a second term in the U.S. Senate.”

The newspaper wrote that “Warner has helped coordinate bipartisan negotiations among rank-and-file members to craft a major deficit-reduction plan that combines spending cuts and tax increases. It has so far fallen by the wayside because of lawmakers’ relentless partisan sniping.”

The newspaper also criticized Gillespie’s plan of repealing the Affordable Care Act. “His alternative — a tax credit-heavy plan to entice Americans to buy insurance, with a pledge that those who like their plan “through Obamacare could keep it” (sound familiar?) — promises to reshape the insurance landscape. It would serve as another major economic disruption and inject uncertainty into an industry in need of stability.”

The Pilot’s editorial board concluded that “Of the candidates on the ballot, Warner is the better choice to represent Virginia, the one far more likely to put practicality before the narrow partisan interests that have paralyzed Washington.”

The Washington Post

WashPostThe Washington Post stressed that Warner is one of few lawmakers in Washington who attempts bipartisanship and therefore deserves reelection to a second term in the Senate.

The newspaper wrote that “Mr. Warner showed guts by defying large chunks of his Democratic base to support trimming entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare in order to forge a deal.”

The Post also wrote that Gillespie’s promise to never compromise on taxes is part of the problem with congressional politics.

“Mr. Gillespie has the skills to be a bipartisan player in the Senate, as Mr. Warner has been. Yet by promising never to compromise on taxes, he has taken himself out of the hunt for an exit from America’s fiscal impasse. Virginians deserve better; in Mr. Warner, they have it,” the Post wrote.

The Washington Times

WashTimesThe Washington Times said that Virginians don’t want another rubber stamp for President Obama, so the newspaper endorsed Gillespie.

The newspaper wrote that Gillespie “has had a successful career in politics. He was the chairman of the Republican National Committee and a top aide of President George W. Bush. He was a prime drafter of the Contract with America, the bold statement of conservative principles that helped republicans win control of Congress in 1994.”

Gillespie still stands for the same values as he did 20 years ago. He also advised that if voters hold him accountable for his actions, then he should be thrown out of office.

The Daily Press

DailyPressWith high hopes for Sen. Warner, the Daily Press in Hampton Roads supports his re-election bid and expects Warner to serve the commonwealth for another six years.

The newspaper said that while “sixty percent of our budget is devoted to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, we need to honestly confront the need to reform those programs, particularly in light of our aging population.”

The editorial board continued to write that “Not only does Sen. Warner understand that, he has been among those senators leading the charge for change. He supports the Simpson-Bowles plan, which proposed a 2-1 ratio of spending cuts to revenue increases – including reform of entitlement programs – in order to slash the deficit and lower the debt.”

Although Sen. Warner attempted to stop former state senator Phillip Puckett from resigning in June, the newspaper believes that it’s best to go with the “road-tested and reliable” Warner than with his challengers.

Danville Register & Bee

Danville RBThe Danville Register & Bee endorsed Warner and wrote that just like they believed in 2008, Warner has been a moderate democrat in the Senate.

The newspaper wrote that “Warner has also actively worked against the president’s wishes by voting against an assault weapons ban, supporting offshore oil and gas drilling off the Virginia coast and the Keystone XL pipeline, according to PolitiFact.”

The editorial board also wrote that “Some of Warner’s most impressive work in Washington has been to reach out to Republicans to craft legislation and to take up the important work of entitlement reform, no small feats during a time of partisan rancor. That didn’t please the party bosses, but it’s exactly what we want in a legislator — someone who can work with members of both political parties and tackle the tough issues.”

The Daily Progress

DailyProgressThe Daily Progress in Charlottesville called for Warner’s reelection as “he’s a reliable leader who can work with the opposition. He’s an entrepreneur who knows how to build and operate a successful business; he was a good governor for Virginia before he was a senator. He likely will, and should, win re-election.”

But the newspaper also expressed its dissatisfaction with incumbents across the board, stating that “we’ve been disappointed by a frequent reluctance to debate or directly engage opponents. The frontrunners are playing it safe. But that strategy costs voters additional chances to see their candidates in action.”
“And while playing it safe may help a candidate get elected, it might not be the best mind-set to carry into Congress, where bold action and reform are needed,” the editorial board wrote.

The News & Advance

NewsadvanceThe News & Advance in Lynchburg endorsed Warner and wrote that he “has a long track record of reaching across the political divide to try to work with everyone to do what’s in the best interest of the people.”

The newspaper wrote that “Sadly, despite Warner’s greatest efforts, positions on both the right and left hardened. The next two years saw the U.S. lose its AAA bond rating and the federal government shutdown for one basic reason: No one wanted to compromise for the good of the nation.”

But the editorial board concluded that “compromise is how governing happens. Mark Warner knows that. He’s not a partisan hack of the left or the right; he’s a centrist trying to find a middle way forward for this country.”

The Roanoke Times

RoanokeThe Roanoke Times, on the other hand, provided its readers with a detailed assessment of the strength and weaknesses of both candidates and did not make a formal endorsement.

“If you would like to see the Republican agenda enacted in its entirety, then Gillespie is the ideal vehicle to cast those votes. If you would like to see more compromise across the party lines and defiance of political orthodoxy, then Gillespie is most certainly not your man. The question for those voters: Is Warner?” asked the newspaper.

The editorial board concluded that “In the end, it may come down to this: Who do you trust more to fix health insurance — the government or the insurance company? Answer that, and you’ve answered the choice between Warner and Gillespie.”

Voters will make that choice in Tuesday’s election. Polls will open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

By Nicole Czaja, Brianna Graves, and John Hussar (Special to WTVR.com)

This story was reported by the “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project, a cooperation between WTVR.com and VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture.

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