Major endorsements are one of the top prizes of any election season. They are more than just feathers in caps. For many people who believe themselves to be less qualified to determine the relative merits of a particular candidate, an endorsement from a person or entity which they already trust is a powerful push in one direction.

This is particularly true of newspaper endorsements. They are both highly visible and very powerful statements to a community about the endorsed candidate and his opponent.

Which makes the data compiled on newspaper endorsements from 2008 and 2012 by The American Presidency Project fascinating.

They record the endorsements for the top 100 newspapers in the nation based on subscriber numbers. The contrast between 2008 and 2012 is stark. You can see the 2008 numbers here and the 2012 numbers here.

By October 26, 2008, 74 had already endorsed. 18 actually made their endorsement on October 26 and just 8 endorsed after the 26th.

By contrast, as of this writing, only 41 papers have made an endorsement so far. 59 of the top 100 US newspapers have yet to endorse for the 2012 race.

In 2008, President Obama received 65 endorsements and John McCain only 25. 8 papers endorsed no one and 2 split their endorsement. Of Obama’s 65, 51 had endorsed John Kerry in 2004 and 10 had endorsed Bush. McCain’s 25 had all either endorsed Bush or had endorsed no one.

By contrast, of the 41 papers making endorsements so far, 18 have picked the president, 16 have chosen Mitt Romney and 7 have announced they will not be endorsing this year. Of those, only 1 2012 Obama endorsement is from a paper which backed McCain in 2008 while 5 of Romney’s 16 are defections from the President’s 2008 camp.

These numbers do not seem to bode well for the President’s re-election bid. Over 65% of his support from 4 years ago has yet to get on board for a second term. 10% of his 2008 support has jumped ship altogether.

Clearly, the nation’s editorial boards, for all their liberal leanings, are reluctant to issue a ringing call for four more years. I suspect more than a few will issue an endorsement of the President late in the race in order to be on the record as supporting their guy.

But in the midst of a hemorrhaging of support for the President in the media and the polls, which began with the first debate, a few timely and prominent endorsements might have gone a long way to stem the tide. That so few have chosen to do so this late in the game is telling.

The polls tell us the people don’t want four more years. The newspapers are telling us that the intelligentsia don’t either. This is not lost on a President who, even if he manages a win, will find it difficult to garner support for his agenda for the next 4 years.

The easiest explanation would seem to be the truth. People from all walks of life and from across the entire social and economic spectrum are unhappy with what this President has done and want no more of it. Just how unhappy we’ll see on November 6th. I don’t like the President’s chances …