The Winston-Salem Journal is the latest conservative-leaning newspaper to back Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson over Republican Donald Trump.
The 115-year-old North Carolina paper's editorial board wrote Sunday that they surprised even themselves by endorsing Johnson, who has struggled to gain traction in the presidential race.
"For months, we here at the Journal editorial board wrestled with this endorsement," the editors wrote.
They wrote that at first, they had considered only Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. But they began to "look harder" at Johnson, as the weeks passed and neither candidate revealed better versions of themselves, forcing them to conclude neither is fit to be president.
"The timing has never been better for this particular Libertarian, Gary Johnson of New Mexico," the paper wrote. "He is everything the presidential candidates for the two major parties are not, thank God."
The paper wrote that Johnson's record of being fiscally conservative, socially progressive and a small government advocate matches its editorial board's emphasis. The editors said they issued an endorsement earlier than usual because they want to put pressure on the Commission on Presidential Debates to include Johnson in the debates that start Sept. 26.
The Winston-Salem Journal endorsed President Obama in 2012, but had backed Republican John McCain in 2008. Until Obama, the paper hadn't endorsed a Democratic nominee for president since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
Its decision comes on the heels of an announcement by the Richmond Times Dispatch that it would endorse Johnson, although that paper has backed the Republican nominee for the past nine presidential elections. The Dispatch's editorial board also wrote that it was initially considering Trump or Clinton, but felt increasingly dismayed by both candidates as the weeks went on.
When meeting with Johnson, they "found him to be knowledgeable but unscripted, reasonable and good-humored, self-assured but free from arrogance, willing and able to address every question, consistent in his beliefs without being dogmatic, even tempered, curious — and in all respects, optimistically, realistically presidential," the board wrote.