Swing-state papers offer endorsements, albeit unenthusiastically

OAKMONT, PA - OCTOBER 17: Election cookies of U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney are displayed at the Oakmont Bakery on October 17, 2012 in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. The images of the candidates are printed on icing paper with food coloring. Currently, Romney is ahead in the tally over Obama, 350 cookies purchased to 331. The bakery began the race three weeks ago and plans to maintain the cookie poll until Election Day. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images) Jeff Swensen

(CBS News) With just a little over two weeks left until Election Day, editorial boards at newspapers in critical background states are unleashing their endorsements in the presidential contest.

While consensus among the different editorial boards is lacking, enthusiasm for both candidates is also missing.

In Ohio, which both campaigns are heavily contesting, two of the three editorial boards at newspapers that have backed a candidate this weekend have offered less-than-ringing support.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial board highlighted President Obama's "bold decision to revive the domestic auto industry" and his passage of the Affordable Care Act, but said their endorsement "comes with less enthusiasm or optimism" than in 2008.

"Obama has changed - and it's more than gray hair," they write. "The unifier of 2008 now engages in relentless attacks on his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The big dreamer of 2008 offers little in the way of a second-term agenda. There is a world-weariness unseen four years ago." The board added that they were "sorely tempted" to back Romney, but worried about "which Romney" would be elected - the liberal of his Senate race against Senator Ted Kennedy? The moderate who served as Massachusetts governor? Or the conservative of the Republican primaries?

The Akron Beach Journal editorial board also backed President Obama, sighting his "impressive" list of accomplishments that includes the health care law and a restructured student loan program. However, they pointed to some of the shortcomings the president has demonstrated in the past four years. "The president lacks the political skills of a Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton. Errors have been many, difficulties remain. They include a failure to address more directly the battered housing market. The drone program proceeds without the necessary oversight," the editorial board wrote.

In Florida, two editorial boards offer cautious optimism for Republican candidate.The Orlando Sentinel editorial board, which backed Mr. Obama in 2008, wrote: "Romney is not our ideal candidate for president. We've been turned off by his appeals to social conservatives and immigration extremists."

They say their decision was based on the notion that they "have little confidence that Obama would be more successful managing the economy and the budget in the next four years."

Another major Florida newspaper editorial board wrote, "A few of Romney's stands trouble us. He can be bellicose on foreign affairs. His gushing enthusiasm for oil drilling and fossil fuels is a worry in Florida, where drilling off our Gulf of Mexico beaches would be a disaster."

The Tampa Tribune editorial board, however, concludes that Romney is the better choice this time around. "Under President Barack Obama's liberal and inconsistent leadership, the country has limped along, barely a step ahead of another recession."

The Denver Post editorial board criticized both candidates, saying that neither one has offered a plan for the future. "Neither has done enough to lead us to think voters on Nov. 6 aren't, to a certain degree, being asked to make a leap of faith," the board wrote in the weekend column. They based their endorsement on the record they know, calling Mr. Obama "the best pick" because of his "record of accomplishment under trying circumstances."

Another Colorado paper editorial board said Mr. Obama "has done a reasonably good job" dealing with the recession, but that questions remain about the president's plan. "The Republican Party has offered no credible alternative," the Durango Herald editorial board concludes. "Romney has publicly demonstrated no core convictions beyond his obvious belief that he should be president. He apparently thinks that simply not being Obama is qualification enough," they wrote.

Meanwhile, some newspaper editorial boards do offer enthusiastic support. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review editorial board bragged that they "warned of the dangers" of Mr. Obama four years ago and that they "predicted everything" from "recovery-retarding taxing and spending to a week foreign policy of deferentialism."

The conservative-leaning editorial board of the New Hampshire Union Leader said Mr. Obama's plan "is a fantasy" and "it is time to stop dreaming and stop growing again" by electing Romney. "The key difference between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama is that Romney understands that crucial economic truth; Barack Obama does not," the editorial board wrote.

At a third Ohio newspaper, the editorial board at the Columbus Dispatch backed Senator John McCain in 2008 and announced its support of Romney Sunday. "Obama has failed. That is why Mitt Romney is the preferred choice for president. Romney's adult life has been spent turning around troubled private and public institutions," the editorial board wrote.

In the liberal enclave of Asheville, North Carolina, the Asheville Citizen-Times editorial board offered strong support for the president because, "It's still hard to get a handle on many of Romney's positions."

"Slow progress is better than no progress. We feel the pillars are in place for more, and hopefully quickened, progress in the days ahead," the editorial board wrote.

Although Utah is not a swing state, it is interesting to note that the Salt Lake Tribune editorial board, from a state where Romney has tremendous support because of its conservative base and its Mormon population, threw its support behind Mr. Obama.

"Through a pair of presidential debates, Romney's domestic agenda remains bereft of detail and worthy of mistrust," the editorial board wrote. "The president has earned a second term. Romney, in whatever guise, does not deserve a first."

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    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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