Orlando, Houston Newspapers Choose Romney over Obama, Reversing Stance from 2008

Orlando, Houston Newspapers Choose Romney over Obama, Reversing Stance from 2008

The Orlando Sentinel and the Houston Chronicle, the largest circulation newspapers near Florida’s Space Coast and NASA’s Johnson Space Center respectively, have endorsed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.   Both had endorsed Barack Obama in 2008.   The space program was not mentioned in the Sentinel’s presidential endorsement, but figured prominently in the Chronicle’s.  The Sentinel did, however, cite the space program as one reason it supports Democrat Bill Nelson over Republican Connie Mack in the Florida Senate race.

The Sentinel’s choice of Romney over Obama centered on the newspaper’s opinion of who would be more successful in leading the nation’s economic recovery. The candidates’ positions on the space program were not mentioned.  The Chronicle, however, lambasted President Obama for allowing “manned spaceflight to languish in the country that put men on the moon.  The notion of paying $50 million a seat to Russia for commercial taxi service to the International Space Station is galling.”  The newspaper did not mention that the decision to terminate the space shuttle before a new U.S. system was ready and to pay Russia for crew space transportation was a policy set in place by the George W. Bush Administration. 

Separately, surrogates for the Obama and Romney campaigns published op-eds in today’s Space News.  Former Obama White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Chief of Staff Jim Kohlenberger argued the case for his old boss, while Scott Pace and Eric Anderson weighed in for Romney.  Pace was a high ranking NASA official in the Bush Administration and is now Director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University and chair of the Romney Space Policy Advisory Group.   Anderson is a member of that group and Chairman of Space Adventures, the company that arranges for private citizens to fly on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.   Both pieces are classic examples of political spin.  Kohlenberger not only takes credit for the Mars Curiosity rover and for SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft, both of which were Bush Administration programs, but asserts “the president’s plan” for NASA “passed with bipartisan support.”  It passed only after Congress completely redid it and forced the Obama Administration to reinstate major portions of Bush’s Constellation program (the heavy lift launch vehicle and crew spacecraft).   Pace and Anderson meanwhile blame Obama for ceding U.S. leadership by making NASA reliant on Russia to take crews to and from orbit, neglecting to mention that was Bush Administration policy — an Administration that Pace served first at OSTP (2001-2002) and then at NASA (2002-2008).

As for the Orlando Sentinel’s support for Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) over his opponent, Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL), the newspaper specifically cites the space program as one of the reasons for endorsing the incumbent: “In the Senate, Nelson has been a champion for NASA and Florida’s role in the space program.  A law he co-authored in 2010 wisely extended the life of the International Space Station and supported the development of commercial spacecraft, both positive developments for Florida and the space program as a whole.”  Mack, on the other hand “has virtually no legislative accomplishments to call his own,” the Sentinel says.

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