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With Election Day just five days away, newspapers from coast to coast are rapidly announcing their candidate endorsements. So suddenly the two major presidential campaigns are beginning to spend as much energy following the papers as the papers spend trailing the candidates. How the tables have turned. "I think [newspaper endorsements] are one of many factors that can lead an undecided voter to make a final decision," Gore campaign spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said. Pfeiffer is in a good position to know. In the last few weeks, the Gore camp -- which has struggled of late to overcome a single-digit deficit in the polls -- has picked up the endorsements of about 50 major newspapers, including significant nods from the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Philadelphia Inquirer. "In our case in particular, the endorsement of the major newspapers, like the Times and the Post, show in great detail why Al Gore is the right candidate for president and raise real questions about whether [Republican candidate] George Bush is ready for the office," Pfeiffer said. But while Gore's representatives bask in the glory of the big-name publications, their Republican counterpart has made waves by picking up several significant and unexpected endorsements of his own. In the past two weeks, Bush has received the approval of about 100 major and regional papers -- many of them which have a tradition of choosing Democrats or are located in hotly contested states. The Texas governor's candidacy has gained the favor of important battleground-state papers like the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, as well as all the major Ohio papers and other big names like the Orlando Sentinel and the New York Post. In a surprising shift, the GOP hopeful also picked up the nod of the traditionally Democratic-leaning Oregonian in Portland, Ore., a publication that twice supported the Clinton-Gore ticket. According to one expert, the endorsement of a major newspaper can only help a candidate, though the potential effect is probably limited. "In a presidential race, I don't think newspaper endorsements sway a huge number of voters," Penn Political Science Department Chairman Jack Nagel said. "The only exception may be those voters who have yet to make up their minds in the last days before Election Day." Nagel added that the endorsements may be especially helpful this year, since the race between Gore and Bush is still so close and will probably rest in the hands of the undecideds.

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