Newspaper endorsements

As of Tuesday, 222 daily newspapers had endorsed Barack Obama for president, and 93 had picked John McCain. Many papers mentioned climate and energy, those dark-horse Big Issues in this campaign, as a reason for backing or choosing not to back a candidate.

The nation’s largest newspapers in terms of circulation are leaning heavily toward Obama — so far. The two biggest haven’t endorsed — where you at, Wall Street Journal and USA Today? — and neither has the nation’s 10th largest paper, Newsday. But of the seven biggies in between, six chose Obama.

In its endorsement of Obama, the New York Times (circ. 1,077,256) laments that John McCain “could have seized the high ground on energy and the environment. Earlier in his career, he offered the first plausible bill to control America’s emissions of greenhouse gases. Now his positions are a caricature of that record: think Ms. Palin leading chants of ‘drill, baby, drill.'”

The New York Daily News (circ. 703,137), which endorsed George W. Bush in 2004, notes that among the historical challenges facing America, “Energy independence and global warming demand action.” (The Bush administration, it notes, “failed to address America’s energy needs and global warming.”) It concludes, “At this critical juncture, the nation must elect a president who will renew bipartisanship and hard-headed pragmatism to … secure the country from global threats, whether of arms or of climate, and lay a foundation to meet 21st century challenges. That is our hope for Barack Obama.”

The Washington Post (circ. 673,180) lists “accelerating climate change” as a problem the next president will have to grapple with and skewers President Bush’s “utter disregard for the planet’s ecological health.” It ultimately endorses Obama, but doesn’t differentiate between the candidates on climatic issues, noting that both Obama and McCain “have pledged to tackle climate change.”

The Houston Chronicle (circ. 494,131), which endorsed hometown boy George W. Bush the last time around, credits McCain for breaking with the Republican Party to “acknowledge the threat of human-induced global warming.” However, it ultimately gives the thumbs-up to Obama — despite misgivings that the Democratic candidate has “a tendency to demonize the energy industry, which will be an indispensable ally in developing alternative fuel sources in the future. He would do well to rethink some of his positions and apply his consensus-building skills to an essential bulwark of the Texas economy.”

McCain was endorsed by the nation’s sixth-largest paper.

The New York Post (circ. 702,488) details its preference for McCain: “On the economic issue most vexing Americans today — energy prices — McCain is aggressive. He is a strong convert to offshore drilling … He also strongly backs nuclear power — a carbon-free form of energy that America can produce relatively cheaply. Obama, meanwhile, hews to the Democratic Party line on energy: no nukes, no drilling, and no comprehension of the consequences of such policies.” (We must note that describing Obama’s energy policy as “no nukes, no drilling” is not quite true.)

Nine of the nation’s top 50 biggest papers, and 19 of the top 100, endorsed McCain.

Said McCain’s hometown paper, the Arizona Republic (circ. 413,332), “[The candidates] speak virtually in one voice regarding the environment and the dangers of global warming. But McCain’s support for a wide array of energy sources, including expanding domestic-oil production and building nuclear-power plants, is considerably more credible than Obama’s.”

The Dallas Morning News (circ. 368,313) lauds McCain for working with Democrats to address climate change; the San Antonio Express-News (circ. 225,447) gives props to his “record of challenging his own party on key issues such as … global warming”; and the Tampa Tribune (circ. 220,522) points out that McCain is “more open-minded on energy reforms than Bush has been.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer (circ. 212,369) declares, “On energy, McCain has been out in front, supporting measures to combat global warming and promote alternative sources as part of an ‘all of the above’ strategy that includes more drilling and nuclear energy. Obama offered token support for drilling only when it became clear most Americans favored it.”

At least 43 papers that endorsed Bush in 2004 are endorsing Obama this year.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram (circ. 207,045) notes that McCain running mate Sarah Palin “ignited the base with ‘drill, baby, drill’ speeches and … teach-creationism stands” — but, says the paper, a “brilliant short-term tactic has proved a flawed long-term strategy.”

“On energy production,” says the Austin American-Statesman (circ. 170,309), “McCain spotlights a false promise of cheap gasoline. He mentions renewable resources, but almost in passing. Obama concentrates his discussion of energy on moving the country beyond the talking stages of diversifying its energy sources and making that talk reality. Offshore drilling alone won’t lower the price of gasoline immediately — and maybe not ever. We can’t wait any longer to diversify the nation’s energy production, and we can’t base our energy future on pining for the long lost days of cheap gasoline.”

In the opinion of the Providence Journal (circ. 139,055), John McCain “seems less likely to effectively address the urgent need for … independence from fossil fuel than Mr. Obama.”

Four newspapers that endorsed Democrat John Kerry in 2004 are rooting for McCain in 2008.

That would be the Daily Press of Newport News, Va. (circ. 91,508), Corpus Christi Caller-Times (circ. 53,368), Bradenton Herald (circ. 48,618), and Jackson Sun (circ. 32,121). The Herald‘s endorsement is not online, and editors did not return a call asking for the text; none of the other papers mentioned climate or energy in their endorsements.