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And Besides, We’ll Buy a Subscription

2 minute read
Michael Duffy

The most coveted newspaper endorsement in the U.S. is expected this week, and it’s not coming from the Washington Post or the New York Times. It’s due from the editors of the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, the only daily paper in the most contested part of the hottest battleground state. Both campaigns have spent countless hours and dollars trying to snare it.

The Bush camp struck first, shipping in the President’s father, an old friend of Dispatch publisher John Wolfe’s, for a quiet breakfast during the Democratic Convention in July. A long line of other White House allies, including Karl Rove, Ken Mehlman, Treasury Secretary John Snow and Budget Director Josh Bolten, has also marched through the Dispatch’s Third Street offices. Last month the President even invited Wolfe and Dispatch president Mike Curtin, along with a reporter, on Air Force One to discuss the issues.

The paper’s history might make such efforts seem unnecessary. For years, the Dispatch was so conservative, it barely mentioned Democrats in its editorials, even to criticize them. But it has grown far more independent in recent years, and editorials have been critical of Bush’s fiscal policies. Sensing an opening, the Kerry team has sent top economic adviser Roger Altman; former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and vice-presidential candidate John Edwards have telephoned; and Kerry dropped in on the editors one day in September, despite a sore throat that had forced him to cancel a campaign appearance. “We’re deficit hawks from way back,” says Curtin. “So both sides have bent over backwards to give us access.” The paper’s choice, like the election, is still a toss-up. –By Michael Duffy

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