US Presidential hopeful Barack Obama, already leading Republican rival John McCain in opinion polls, got a major boost to his campaign with the influential New York Times newspaper lending its endorsement to the Democrat, commending him for possessing "a cool head" and "sound judgement".
Contending that the Afro-African was better placed to deal with deteriorating economy and sensitive world problems, including wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the newspaper said he was also likely to engineer sound alliances at international and national levels.
"He has shown a cool head and sound judgement. We believe he has the will and the ability to forge the broad political consensus that is essential to finding solutions to this nation's problems," the Times editorial board said in an 1800-word endorsement.
In contrast, the paper said McCain has retreated farther and farther to the fringe of American politics, running a "campaign on partisan division, class warfare and even hints of racism."
Claiming that McCain's policies and worldview were mired in the past, the paper also termed his running mate Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as "unfit for the office".
"His choice of a running mate so evidently unfit for the office was a final act of opportunism and bad judgement that eclipsed the accomplishments of 26 years in Congress."
McCain, the paper said, offers more of the Republican every-man-for-himself ideology, now lying in shards on Wall Street and in Americans' bank accounts.
Obama, on the other hand, has another vision of government's role and responsibilities, it added.
The Times' support, picked up by Obama with just 11 days of campaigning left, comes on top of endorsements by the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Washington post earlier this week.
The endorsement which was posted on the paper's website and will be published in Friday's editions, paints McCain as living in the past and not articulating any new ideas on either national or international front.
The Times, which had endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton during the primaries, said watching Obama being tested in the campaign has long since erased the reservations that led the paper to support her.
"He has drawn in legions of new voters with powerful messages of hope and possibility and calls for shared sacrifice and social responsibility," it said.
Analysts are divided as to the value of media endorsement, pointing out that such support has not always helped a candidate. But with Obama already ahead, the endorsements might help him boost his chances, they opined.
Taking Obama's line, the Times said the US is "battered and drifting" after eight years of President Bush's "failed" leadership.
"He is saddling his successor with two wars, a scarred global image and a government systematically stripped of its ability to protect and help its citizens whether they are fleeing a hurricane's floodwaters, searching for affordable health care or struggling to hold on to their homes, jobs, savings and pensions in the midst of a financial crisis that was foretold and preventable," it read.
After nearly two years of a gruelling and ugly campaign, Obama has proved that he is the right choice to be the 44th president of the United States, the paper asserted.
Given the particularly ugly nature of McCain's campaign, the urge to choose on the basis of raw emotion is strong, the Times said, adding there is a greater value in looking closely at the facts of life in America today and at the prescriptions the candidates offer. "The differences are profound."
The daily praised the Democrat senator from Illinois for correctly identifying the the abject failure of government regulation that has brought the markets to the brink of collapse and said the American financial system is the victim of decades of Republican deregulatory and anti-tax policies.
"Those ideas have been proved wrong at an unfathomable price, but Mr McCain a self-proclaimed 'foot soldier in the Reagan revolution' is still a believer," it said, pointing out that Obama sees that far-reaching reforms will be needed to protect Americans and American business.
"Obama is clear that the nation's tax structure must be changed to make it fairer. That means the well-off Americans who have benefited disproportionately from Bush's tax cuts will have to pay some more," the paper read.