TAMPA, Fla. – In a break with tradition, The Tampa Tribune (search), a Republican standard-bearer for decades, refused Sunday to endorse anyone for president for the first time since 1964.
The newspaper has solidly supported every Republican presidential nominee since 1952, except for Barry Goldwater, but withheld its endorsement this year, calling the decision "achingly difficult" and blaming shortcomings of both candidates.
Editors instead published an unusual full-page editorial with harsh criticism of the war in Iraq and President Bush's economic policies.
"President Bush told us that he was 'a uniter, not a divider,' but shortly after taking office, his administration took a sharp right turn that has divided this country," the editorial said. The newspaper said it was "deeply disappointed" with Bush on federal spending, the budget deficit and the recession.
But the paper was also skeptical of Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry (search), saying his "undistinguished Senate record stands at odds with our conservative principles" and his positions on Iraq "have been difficult to distinguish or differentiate."
"We're not sure what Kerry thinks. He supported the war in Iraq (search), then opposed adequately funding the troops. His plan to secure the peace in Iraq is to cozy up to European countries that don't have our interests at heart," the editorial said.
The Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal also declined to endorse either candidate in an editorial Sunday.
"This is a presidency in deep trouble, made worse by the refusal to acknowledge the trouble," the Journal wrote. "Unfortunately, Sen. John Kerry has not convinced us that he will be able to steer the nation out of the mess in Iraq and move forward appropriately in the war on terrorism."
The Tribune and the Journal are among the largest papers owned by Richmond, Va.-based Media General Inc. Another Media General newspaper, the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch, endorsed Bush on Sunday.