The Detroit News' potentially historic presidential pick comes any day now

October 27, 2020, 12:22 PM by  Alan Stamm

"We're working on it," Nolan Finley replies Tuesday to our inquiry about a presidential candidate endorsement by his Detroit News editorial board.

If Joe Biden is the choice, it will get national attention as the paper's first backing of a Democrat for president. It endorsed Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson four years ago, so Donald Trump seems unlikely to be the 2020 choice.

The selection, apparently coming by Saturday, will complete tricounty and statewide endorsements by The News that include Republican John James for U.S. Senate, Bridget McCormack and Brock Swartzle for Supreme Court, and a "yes" vote for Detroit Proposal N to allow $250 million in demolition bonds. (Each editorial is subscriber-only access.)

Finley's opinion page gave space for a Joe Biden guest column last Saturday (also paywalled). The Detroit Free Press endorsed the Democratic nominee five weeks ago on Sept. 20, calling him "the course correction we need to reassure an anxious world that the American dream of liberty and justice for all endures."

The News' editorial page editor last Saturday gave a sign of what may be coming when he wrote in a column:

"Wanting to get to the bottom of the Hunter Biden email allegations is not akin to an endorsement of President Donald Trump's reelection. Just because you might think Joe Biden is better than Trump no matter what, you still should want to know just how bad Biden is." 

Given the intense interest in this fall's race between dramatically different candidates, it's unlikely that The News will sidestep a choice. The paper did that twice during Franklin D. Roosevelt's era and again in 2004, "when it refused to endorse George W. Bush for re-election," according to the Ballotpedia reference site.

Ingrid Jacques, deputy editorial page editor

Ingrid Jacques, The News' deputy editorial page editor, says in a video that political endorsements are "one of the most important responsibilities of the editorial board." She adds: "While our preferences lean to classic conservatives who believe in smaller, efficient government and show a respect for individual rights, we are not locked to any political party."

Those recommended so far include four Democratic U.S. House members: Reps. Debbie Dingell, Andy Levin, Elissa Slotkin and Brenda Lawrence. 

If Finley, Jacques and board colleagues go for Biden, they'd join three other publications whose presidential campaign editorials made news recently:

  • The New Hampshire Union Leader endorsed Biden last Sunday as "a caring, compassionate and professional public servant," the first time it backed a Democrat for president in over 100 years. Like The News, it endorsed the Libertarian candidate in 2016. This time, it says Trump "is 100 percent wrong for America."

  • Scientific American endorsed Biden this month, the first such move in its 175 years. "Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people because he rejects evidence and science," the editorial says.

  • The New England Journal of Medicine weighed in on a presidential election for the first time since it began in 1812. Without endorsing Biden directly, editors three weeks ago urged voters to deny President Trump a second term because his administration has "taken a [Covid] crisis and turned it into a tragedy."

Stay tuned to see if The Detroit News joins that list.

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