Union Leader endorses McCain; Romney goes negative

Drudge is reporting that the NH Union Leader is endorsing John McCain tomorrow. My gut is that, as newspaper endorsements go, this is a relatively big deal. The UL is influential in NH, and it can also drive local media.

For a while people thought that Mitt Romney was going to get this endorsement. It was long the conventional wisdom that Judd Gregg would go with Romney, and Joe McQuaid, the UL editor, is very close to Gregg. In fact, NH sources tell me, McQuaid called Gregg to tell him about the endorsement, as a courtesy and recognition of their long friendship. Unfortunately, the Romney campaign had no such deference to the friendship. They leaked the story to Drudge and started moving around negative material on McCain.

Typical Romney scorched-earth tactics. Of course, if the recent Fox News poll is any indication, Romney may end up with something to worry about in NH.

Of course, it seemed that a McCain endorsement was likely. They had whacked Fred Thompson repeatedly. McQuaid is very pro-life, and so Rudy was out of the question. And McQuaid had attacked Romney on abortion:

CAN PRO-LIFE Americans count on Mitt Romney to protect the unborn? Maybe, but Romney has not been convincing on this point. …

That is not reassuring. It is a tacit admission that he told the people of Massachusetts what they wanted to hear, essentially saying he would govern according to state law and not his own personal beliefs, but then governing according to those personal beliefs. …

Romney has given two accounts of his changing views on abortion. One is that he was pro-choice until 2005, when he became pro-life after researching stem cell issues. The other is that he was personally pro-life but refused to impose his views on the people of Massachusetts.

Both cannot be true. Which is it? We are not sure we care. But we do care that Romney has two stories that don’t mesh and appears to have inadvertently admitted to taking a position on this issue because it was politically expedient to do so.

In Iowa, Romney’s line that he is tired of people being "holier than thou" because they’ve been pro-life longer than he has was a good one. But it’s not about who’s been pro-life longer. It’s about whether Romney really is pro-life. Despite his assurances, we, along with many conservatives, are not convinced he is.

What happens if the UL really goes after Romney? An extended attack on Romney’s credibility could do a lot of damage. And there’s plenty of material.