Getty Images / Win McNamee
Democratic presidential nominee U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) smiles during the third presidential debate.
CHICAGO -- While its own "Statement of Principles" stresses limited government, maximum individual responsibility, and minimum restriction of personal liberty, opportunity and enterprise -- Republican ideologies -- the Chicago Tribune on Friday endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for president.
It is the first time the 161-year-old newspaper has endorsed the Democratic party's nominee for president.
In an endorsement posted on its Web site, the Chicago Tribune cited another Illinoisian, Abraham Lincoln, and called Obama the strongest candidate to "lead us through a perilous time and restore in us a common sense of national purpose."
"We have tremendous confidence in his intellectual rigor, his moral compass and his ability to make sound, thoughtful, careful decisions," the paper said. "He is ready."
The Tribune, which has weekday circulation of about 541,000, did earlier in its history back two independents for president: Horace Greeley in 1872 and Theodore Roosevelt in 1912, but never a Democrat, Crain's Chicago Business noted.
After endorsing Sen. John McCain in Illinois' Republican primary, the paper said the candidate is now "hard to figure" and that he "failed in his most important executive decision" by selecting Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.
"His campaign has tried to stage-manage Palin's exposure to the public. But it's clear she is not prepared to step in at a moment's notice and serve as president. McCain put his campaign before his country," the paper said.
Tribune editorial page editor Bruce Dold told Crain's that Sam Zell stayed out of the process.
“This was a decision made by consensus of the editorial board with the editor and publisher,” Dold said. “I had no conversations with the CEO.”
Division Street blogger Steve Rhodes said that it seems clear reading through the rest of the endorsement that the Tribune was open to -- and perhaps even cheering for -- McCain's campaign, but ultimately could not endorse him.
Tribune writer Paul Weingarten's companion piece explains how the paper's editorial board reached its decision.