Nobody is sure which GOP presidential candidate will triumph in the Jan. 3 Iowa caucus. But everyone has long assumed that, when New Hampshire voters weigh in a week later with the first primary of the 2012 election, Mitt Romney will score an easy victory. Everyone, it seems, except the Granite State's biggest and most influential newspaper, the New Hampshire Union Leader, which bestowed its high-profile endorsement on Newt Gingrich in a front page editorial by publisher Joseph McQuaid. Currently, Gingrich polls at about 15 percent in the state, compared to Romney's 42 percent. But is the conservative paper's snub a sign that the "surging" Gingrich could actually topple Romney in New Hampshire?

New Hampshire voters are smarter than this: The only thing sillier than the Union Leader's "ill-reasoned endorsement is the reaction of right-leaning pundits who find this development meaningful — decisive, even!" says Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post. The contrarian newspaper has a "lousy track record of picking winners," and GOP voters this year have been much savvier than the "downright daft" conservative media in vetting, then discarding, high-flying duds like Newt.
"Gingrich's endorsement and the failings of the conservative media"

Gingrich could ride the Union Leader plug to victory: "It is probably good to be skeptical about the value of newspaper endorsements overall," but the Union Leader's actually moves the needle, says Nate Silver in The New York Times. Historically, candidates endorsed by the Union Leader gain an average of 11 points in the polls, which would put Gingrich in easy striking distance of Romney. If Newt wins Iowa, he has a real shot at burying Romney in the Granite State.
"Newspaper's endorsement has been leading indicator in New Hampshire"

Decisive or not, this is a big blow to Romney: The Union Leader's "counter-intuitive" endorsement might "convince primary voters to take a second look at Gingrich," says Ed Morrissey in Hot Air. Or it could barely dent Romney's substantial lead in New Hampshire. But Romney's inability to seal the deal with the most influential newspaper in one of his biggest strongholds, despite heavy courting, could have "voters in other states rethinking his inevitability, too."
"Gingrich snags Union Leader endorsement in NH"