September 5, 2016 Last Updated 9:29 am

Virginia paper endorses early, and surprises with its choice – but do newspaper endorsements have any influence today?

Morning Brief: It is Labor Day in the US, yet another of the unpaid national holidays in a country where the Federal government mandates no paid time off

The Labor Day holiday generally begins the stretch run for the presidential election cycle – and from what I hear from friends and family, everyone is eager to see an end to this election. It has been the longest, most expensive, and ugliest election so far.

But, as it is Labor Day, newspapers will begin to make their endorsements. One of them, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, went early and endorsed on Sunday.


The paper’s choice may be a bit of a surprise, but many it wasn’t. The paper has endorsed every Republican candidate to run for president since 1980 so there was virtually no chance they would change things up this election cycle by endorsing Hillary Clinton.

Instead, they threw their endorsement to the Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson.

“Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton meets the fundamental moral and professional standards we have every right to expect of an American president. Fortunately, there is a reasonable — and formidable — alternative,” the paper wrote in its Sunday editorial.

The paper probably chose to go early because in order for Johnson, or the Green Party candidate Jill Stein to be included in the debates they will need to poll 15 percent or better in three national polls. So far, at least, neither candidate has come close.

But just how influential are newspaper endorsement these days? Not very, if one were to judge from this year’s batch of endorsements. In the Republican primaries most paper that bothered to endorse chose to throw their weight behind Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who only won his own home state primary. The NY Post endorsed Donald Trump, and a handful of papers endorsed Ted Cruz. But by and large, those endorsing Republican candidates had little to show for their editorials.

On the Democratic side, no major newspaper endorsed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, yet he was far more competitive than most forecast, and he won 21 state primaries or caucuses despite the lack of support by the fourth estate.

It is not likely the Richmond Times-Dispatch endorsement will prove very influential, either. Right now state polls show a close race between Clinton and Trump (with Clinton up by 1 or 2 points), but with Johnson polling no better than 11 points.

So, another national holiday to be observed. But with the US emphasis on business, there are few parades or demonstrations or fireworks planned to celebrate labor in the country.

In fact, like all other holidays, there is no national mandate that workers get the day off with pay.

That makes this a good time to reproduce this chart from the Center for Economic and Policy Research from 2013. It shows the number of paid vacation and paid holidays mandated by the government.


I showed this chart to someone last week and got a confused look. Surely Americans have paid holidays and vacation days, right? Well, yes, from their businesses, who must compete with other business, after all.

But there remains no mandated paid time off in the US, something that my friends in Europe continue to be mystified about.

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