Union Leader endorses Newt Gingrich

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich received the coveted primary endorsement from New Hampshire's largest newspaper on Sunday, a major blow to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the polling front runner in the state.

"We are in critical need of the innovative, forward-looking strategy and positive leadership that Gingrich has shown he is capable of providing," wrote Joseph W. McQuaid, publisher of the Union Leader. "A lot of candidates say they're going to improve Washington. Newt Gingrich has actually done that, and in this race he offers the best shot of doing it again."

New Hampshire traditionally holds the first primary election in the nation, and several candidates have met with the paper's editorial board over the past few months in hopes of securing its influential endorsement. New Hampshire will hold its Republican primary election on January 10, 2012.

Over the years, the Leader has had a mixed record of picking the ultimate nominee. The paper endorsed Arizona Sen. John McCain in 2008, businessman Steve Forbes in 2000, Pat Buchanan in 1996 and 1992, former Delaware Gov. Pierre du Pont in 1988 and Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1976.

Support for Gingrich has steadily risen nationally over the past few weeks. A Quinnipiac University poll released last week showed him leading Romney by four percentage points. In New Hampshire, where Romney has held a dominating lead throughout the cycle at around 40 percent, Gingrich trails by about 18 percentage points, according to the Real Clear Politics survey average.

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