The New York Times’ opinion page published the endorsement online at 11 p.m. Sunday, and it will appear in the newspaper Monday.
The editorial board’s backing of Warren and Klobuchar comes two weeks ahead of the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses.
The board interviewed Warren for 80 minutes on Dec. 4 and Klobuchar for 90 minutes on Dec. 10. At a Dec. 17 meeting, journalists on the editorial board chose their top two candidates, creating a final four shortlist that included Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., Booker suspended his campaign last week.
In the editorial announcing its decision, the board labeled Warren and Klobuchar as the most effective advocates of new ideas and stability, respectively.
While praising Warren, the Massachusetts senator, as a “gifted storyteller” who “speaks elegantly of how the economic system is rigged against all but the wealthiest Americans,” the board also acknowledged her commitment to structural reform and ending corruption as well as her fluency in foreign policy. It casts her as a candidate who approaches policymaking seriously but highlights a conservative federal judiciary as a “significant” roadblock to achieving the progressive change she seeks.
The editorial also criticizes her transformation as a woman who entered Washington standing out as a “citizen-politician,” writing that she “has shown some questionable political instincts” in her presidential campaign, sometimes portraying herself as a divisive us-versus-them candidate.
“Ms. Warren’s path to the nomination is challenging, but not hard to envision,” the board writes, noting that the top four candidates are bunched together in national and early-state polls and that even a small shift in voter sentiment could have a huge impact at this stage of the primary.
Warren is one of the four candidates atop the polls in the race. She narrowly trailed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for first place in the latest Des Moines Register/CNN poll of Iowa this month. According to RealClearPolitics’ average of early-state polls, Warren is third in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
“There are plenty of progressives who are hungry for major change but may harbor lingering concerns about a messenger as divisive as Mr. Sanders,” it adds. “At the same time, some moderate Democratic primary voters see Ms. Warren as someone who speaks to their concerns about inequality and corruption. Her earlier leaps in the polls suggest she can attract more of both.”
The board dismissed former Vice President Joe Biden’s lead in national polls as “a measure of familiarity as much as voter intention,” arguing that “merely restoring the status quo will not get America where it needs to go as a society” and insisted he pass the torch to a new generation of leaders.
The board identified Klobuchar, who has struggled to break out and join the top tier of candidates, as “a standard-bearer for the Democratic center” and reasoned that “the best chance to enact progressive plans could be under a Klobuchar administration.” It said Klobuchar would be a deal maker who could unite the liberal and moderate wings of the party — and possibly bring the entire country together.
The board warned that Klobuchar’s reported treatment of her staff could be a problem, given the importance of any president’s ability to hire and retain top staff. But male politicians like Biden, President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton “also have reputations for sometimes berating their staffs, and it is rarely mentioned as a political liability,” the editorial notes, and Klobuchar “has acknowledged she’s a tough boss and pledged to do better.”
“Ms. Klobuchar doesn’t have the polished veneer and smooth delivery that comes from a lifetime spent in the national spotlight, and she has struggled to gain traction on the campaign trail,” the board wrote. “In Minnesota, however, she is enormously popular. She has won all three of her Senate elections by double digits.”
In 2016, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton carried just nine of Minnesota’s 87 counties. Klobuchar won 51 counties in 2018. “[I]t’s far too early to count Ms. Klobuchar out,” the board said. “Senator John Kerry, the eventual Democrat nominee in 2004, was also polling in the single digits at this point in the race.”
The board concludes its endorsement by highlighting Trump as a threat to democracy. The Senate will begin Trump’s impeachment trial Tuesday after the House voted to charge the president with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over his attempt to pressure Ukraine into investigating the Bidens.
Still, the board wrote, Trump has “near-universal approval from his party,” and “Democrats would be smart to recognize that Mr. Trump’s vision for America’s future is shared by many millions of Americans.”
To win the White House, the board said Warren must understand “that the country is more diverse than her base,” and Klobuchar must acknowledge “the depth of the nation’s dysfunction.”
“There will be those dissatisfied that this page is not throwing its weight behind a single candidate, favoring centrists or progressives. But it’s a fight the party itself has been itching to have since Mrs. Clinton’s defeat in 2016, and one that should be played out in the public arena and in the privacy of the voting booth,” the editorial said. “That’s the very purpose of primaries, to test-market strategies and ideas that can galvanize and inspire the country.
“Ms. Klobuchar and Ms. Warren right now are the Democrats best equipped to lead that debate,” it concluded. “May the best woman win.”
In 2016, The Times endorsed Clinton in the Democratic primary over Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley — and then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the GOP primary.