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Newt Gingrich: Union Leader endorsement a big boost in New Hampshire

In a front page editorial Sunday, New Hampshire's prominent statewide Union Leader newspaper endorsed Newt Gingrich. It's a big boost for Gingrich and a blow to Mitt Romney, currently leading in polls.

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Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich greets supporters after speaking at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire November 21, 2011.

Adam Hunger/Reuters

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Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign just got a big boost in New Hampshire – the state holding the first Republican primary election.

The Union Leader, the state’s most prominent publication and a leading voice in conservatism, says it’s backing Gingrich over Mitt Romney.

Romney, who holds a commanding lead in New Hampshire polling, is still the man to beat there. But the Union Leader’s rejection of his candidacy is a blow nonetheless – particularly since Gingrich has vaulted past his GOP rivals to claim neck-and-neck status with Romney in national Republican polls as well as likely-voter surveys in other states.

The newspaper’s endorsement – spread across the top of the front page in the Sunday edition and signed by publisher Joseph W. McQuaid – carries a granite-like tone typical of a publication prominent in Republican politics. Four years ago, its endorsement of John McCain helped propel McCain past Romney to a win in New Hampshire and to his party’s nomination.

"We are in critical need of the innovative, forward-looking strategy and positive leadership that Gingrich has shown he is capable of providing," the newspaper wrote in its editorial.

"We don't back candidates based on popularity polls or big-shot backers,” the paper declared in obvious reference to Romney. “We look for conservatives of courage and conviction who are independent-minded, grounded in their core beliefs about this nation and its people, and best equipped for the job.”

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