With the presidential election in the United States just over two weeks away, endorsements are beginning to appear on the editorial pages of major newspapers. Several papers in hotly contested states announced their picks on Sunday, as did one of the most prestigious dailies in the nation.
The New York Times is the first American newspaper with a national reach to endorse a candidate.
In an editorial in Sunday's edition, the Times backed Senator John Kerry, calling the Democratic nominee a man with a strong moral core.
The Kerry campaign also got endorsements Sunday from important newspapers in closely contested states, including the Miami Herald in Florida, as well as his hometown newspaper Boston Globe.
But there was good news for the Republicans on the endorsement front as well. President Bush got the backing of The Chicago Tribune, which praised his resoluteness in the face of defining challenges. He also got backing from key regional newspapers in states where the race for the White House is close, such as Colorado and New Mexico.
The endorsements are being watched closely because the contest between the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees remains extremely tight. Although a few national polls show President Bush with a slim lead, most indicate the race remains virtually deadlocked.
In the face of all this, officials from both campaigns are sounding determined, but far from overconfident. Bush-Cheney Campaign Chairman Marc Racicot told the Fox News Sunday television program, he always knew it would be a tough contest, but is heartened by the slim lead he sees in some surveys.
"We're encouraged, however, by that separation even though we know it is not as large as we would like it to be," said Marc Racicot.
Kerry campaign senior advisor Joe Lockhart was also interviewed on Fox News Sunday. He noted that his campaign is conducting its own polling.
"We have this as a very close race. I think we have a little bit of an edge. But more importantly, when you go into the battleground states where this will be decided, I think those have been breaking for us over the last few weeks since the start of the first debate so we feel good where we are," said Mr. Lockhart.
One of the few pollsters who correctly predicted the extraordinarily close race in 2000 was John Zogby, whose firm conducts surveys in conjunction with the Reuter News Agency. He says he is seeing a pattern this year that is very similar to the last election with a slight lead going back and forth between the two candidates in the final weeks of the campaign and an evenly divided electorate.