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Inside Politics

Bush, Kerry win newspaper endorsements

N.Y. Times goes for senator; Chicago Tribune picks president

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(CNN) -- President Bush and his Democratic challenger, Sen. John Kerry, split the endorsements of several leading newspapers Sunday, but one major Florida paper said it could support neither candidate.

Bush won the backing of the Chicago (Illinois) Tribune; the Rocky Mountain News of Denver, Colorado; the (Carlsbad, New Mexico) Current-Argus; and the Omaha (Nebraska) World-Herald.

The Tribune praised him for leading a "bolder struggle" than Kerry would against terrorism and a broader effort to defend the United States.

Kerry racked up support from The New York Times, the Minneapolis (Minnesota) Star Tribune and one of his hometown papers, the Boston (Massachusetts) Globe.

The Times, one of the nation's largest and most influential papers, called the Massachusetts senator "a man with a strong moral core" who "has qualities that could be the basis for a great chief executive."

The papers that endorsed Kerry supported Democrat Al Gore for president in 2000, while those that endorsed Bush on Sunday supported him in 2000.

But the Tampa (Florida) Tribune, which has endorsed Republicans for president in every election but one in the past half-century, said it would issue no endorsement this year.

The newspaper said its "deeply conflicted" editorial board could not back Bush "because of his mishandling of the war in Iraq, his record deficit spending, his assault on open government and his failed promise to be a 'uniter not a divider' within the United States and the world."

But the paper said it could not endorse Kerry, "whose undistinguished Senate record stands at odds with our conservative principles and whose positions on the Iraq war -- the central issue in this campaign -- have been difficult to distinguish or differentiate."

The Tribune is one of two newspapers in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, one of the largest metro areas in one of the year's most hotly contested states.

The St. Petersburg Times endorsed Kerry on Sunday, saying Bush's mistakes "have left this country less united and less secure."

"John Kerry isn't a perfect candidate. No one is," the Times said. "But he is an intelligent, principled leader who has demonstrated his commitment to his country on the battlefield and in public service."

While the Chicago Tribune had some kind words for Kerry -- saying both he and Bush have exemplary "integrity, intentions and abilities" -- The New York Times, with a circulation of 1.7 million, assailed Bush's domestic and foreign agendas.

The race, the Times said, "is mainly about Mr. Bush's disastrous tenure."

Kerry, the Times said, "has the capacity to do far, far better. He has a willingness -- sorely missing in Washington these days -- to reach across the aisle."

Praising other elements of Kerry's platform, the endorsement said, "We look back on the past four years with hearts nearly breaking, both for the lives unnecessarily lost and for the opportunities so casually wasted.

"Time and again, history invited George W. Bush to play a heroic role, and time and again he chose the wrong course. We believe that with John Kerry as president, the nation will do better."

The Chicago Tribune, which has a circulation of about 1 million, argued the threat of terrorism must guide the vote.

Bush "embraces a bolder struggle" than Kerry would against not only "those who sow terror, but also with rogue governments that harbor, finance or arm them," it said.

"Bush's sense of a president's duty to defend America is wider in scope than Kerry's, more ambitious in its tactics, more prone, frankly, to yield both casualties and lasting results. This is the stark difference on which American voters should choose a president," it concluded.

The paper did have some harsh words for Kerry, complaining that the "moral certitude" he once displayed "has evaporated."

The Boston Globe said Kerry exhibits "an ability to see complex problems in new, often prescient, ways and a willingness to seek collaborative solutions."

"Iraq, simply put, is out of control," the Globe said. "Kerry is best qualified to bring it under control, not least by reassuring the Iraqis themselves that the United States does not have permanent designs on their strategic bases or oil.

"On terrorism, Kerry understands that intelligence, police work, diplomacy, and economic development are the the principal weapons against a diffuse but knowable enemy."

While their editorial boards are separate, The Boston Globe is a unit of The New York Times Co.

The Rocky Mountain News complained that Kerry "has a long record that suggests radically different instincts from Bush. To put it bluntly, he was for many years quite simply wrong about America's successful strategy in the Cold War ... [and] opposed many of the weapons systems used effectively in Afghanistan and Iraq."

Bush's "vision for American foreign policy is a major reason we support him," the paper said. "The Bush Doctrine, as some have called his admittedly ambitious design, has been refined since 9/11 but remains based upon a few key principles:

"The U.S. reserves the right to take pre-emptive military action against terrorists wherever they dwell, and against the regimes that harbor or encourage them."

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