The editorial suggested the two candidates represent either a radical or realist route for America — a battle it says the Democratic Party has been itching to have since Hillary Clinton’s defeat at the hands of Donald Trump in 2016, and “one that should be played out in the public arena and in the privacy of the voting booth”.
Both approaches — moderate and progressive — “warrant serious consideration”, the board said.
“If there were ever a time to be open to new ideas, it is now,” the board wrote in reference to Ms Warren, while also saying of Ms Klobuchar: “If there were ever a time to seek stability, now is it.”
“The history of the editorial board would suggest that we would side squarely with the candidate with a more traditional approach to pushing the nation forward, within the realities of a constitutional framework and a multiparty country,” the editorial said.
“But the events of the past few years have shaken the confidence of even the most committed institutionalists. We are not veering away from the values we espouse, but we are rattled by the weakness of the institutions that we trusted to undergird those values.”
The editorial painted a dramatic reading of current events and America’s place in it; denounced Donald Trump as a “threat to democracy”; and justified the board’s decision largely as reflecting the internal struggle within the Democratic Party. However the decision to place the blame for an “historic flood of migrants” on “basket-case” Central American governments is likely to raise eyebrows of many within the party whose views it professed a desire to reflect.
“There has been a wildfire burning in Australia larger than Switzerland,” they wrote. “The Middle East is more unstable at this moment than at any other time in the past decade, with a nuclear arms race looking more when than if. Basket-case governments in several nations south of the Rio Grande have sent a historic flood of migrants to our southern border.
“Global technology companies exert more political influence than some national governments. White nationalists from Norway to New Zealand to El Paso use the internet to share ideas about racial superiority and which calibre of rifle works best for the next mass killing.”
The 15 board members spent more than 12 hours meeting with nine candidates, releasing transcripts of these conversations and documenting their decision-making process in a daily podcast.
The board announced its decision a fortnight before the nomination process begins at the Iowa caucuses, where the latest polling has Joe Biden leading the pack with 24 per cent, Bernie Sanders behind him with 18 per cent and Ms Warren in fourth place with 15 per cent, behind Pete Buttigieg.
Ms Klobuchar is polling at 8 per cent in Iowa, up from 5 per cent in November.
While a clip from an interview with Mr Sanders showed him suggesting that the paper had “failed” the millions of Americans who voted for Mr Trump, the board had some trite words for the arguably best-known progressive candidate.
“He boasts that compromise is anathema to him. Only his prescriptions can be the right ones, even though most are overly rigid, untested and divisive,” the editorial said, adding his age and health were of serious concern following a heart attack in October. “He promises that once in office, a groundswell of support will emerge to push through his agenda. Three years into the Trump administration, we see little advantage to exchanging one over-promising, divisive figure in Washington for another.”
It added: “Good news, then, that Elizabeth Warren has emerged as a standard-bearer for the Democratic left.”
In its praise of the Massachusetts senator, the board made heavy reference to Ms Warren’s Republican past as potentially lending her the “power and conviction and credibility” to successfully unite politicians and voters of all stripes.
But the editorial also complained that her gripes with capitalism were too divisive.
“American capitalism is responsible for its share of sins,” the board wrote. “But Ms Warren often casts the net far too wide, placing the blame for a host of maladies from climate change to gun violence at the feet of the business community when the onus is on society as a whole. The country needs a more unifying path.”
Acknowledging Mr Biden’s current status as the leading moderate candidate, according to polling, the board suggested his presidency would merely be reinstating a troubled status quo and also questioned his age, asserting “it is time for him to pass the torch”.
Describing Ms Klobuchar as a moderate standard-bearer and “the very definition of Midwestern charisma, grit and sticktoitiveness”, the board suggested “the best chance to enact many progressive plans could be under a Klobuchar administration”.
It listed her pledges to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, halve childhood poverty levels, and address the opioid crisis with an £100bn plan, praising her as speaking “with an empathy that connects to voters’ lived experiences, especially in the middle of the country”.
However they also pointed to reports of Ms Klobuchar not treating her staff with respect, and said she lacked the “polished veneer and smooth delivery” of a more high-profile candidate, asserting she has struggled to gain traction on the campaign trail.
The New York Times has endorsed the eventual nominee every time this century except in 2008, when it backed Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama.
“May the best woman win,” the board wrote.