The Des Moines Register, the left-of-center and most influential newspaper in Iowa that endorsed President Barack Obama in 2008, endorsed Mitt Romney on Saturday. The Register called the Republican the “stronger candidate” who could “forge compromise” to pull America’s economy “out of the doldrums.”
Romney is the first Republican the paper has endorsed for president in 40 years when it supported Richard Nixon.
The paper noted their “discussion repeatedly circled back to the nation’s single most important challenge”:
[P]ulling the economy out of the doldrums, getting more Americans back in the workforce in meaningful jobs with promising futures, and getting the federal government on a track to balance the budget in a bipartisan manner that the country demands.
The paper came to the conclusion that Romney’s business and executive background made him the best candidate to tackle these challenges and “unlock this nation’s economic potential.”
“Throughout the campaign, [Romney] has expressed faith in the private sector to fuel a more robust economic recovery if it has more confidence that the federal government will not be an obstacle,” the paper wrote. “Romney has a strategy for job growth through tax and regulatory relief for small businesses, encouraging all forms of domestic energy production, education that prepares graduates with job skills, expanding foreign trade and reducing the burden of federal deficits.”
As for Obama, the paper pointed out his lack of ideas and plans for a second term and noted that while he “rocketed to the presidency from relative obscurity with a theme of hope and change in his administration,” a “different reality has marked his presidency” and “his record on the economy the past four years does not suggest he would lead in the direction the nation must go in the next four years.”
“The president’s best efforts to resuscitate the stumbling economy have fallen short,” the paper wrote of Obama. “Nothing indicates it would change with a second term in the White House.”
The Register urged voters to “give Mitt Romney a chance to correct the nation’s fiscal course and to implode the partisan gridlock that has shackled Washington and the rest of America — with the understanding that he would face the same assessment in four years if he does not succeed.”
In explaining how they came to their endorsement, Publisher Laura Hollingsworth, Editor Rick Green, Opinions Editor Randy Evans, and editorial writers Rox Laird and Andie Dominick, the five people who make the endorsement, wrote that their support for “Republican Mitt Romney may surprise, it may anger, it may please,” but “the goal of endorsement editorials is to advance the conversation.”
“After watching the two candidates over the past six years, interviewing them both at least twice, researching their positions and the issues and having conversations with Iowans, the five of us spent more than two hours before reaching a consensus,” they wrote. “It was a vigorous and useful debate.”
On Tuesday, Obama refused to give the Register editorial board an on-the-record interview. After the public put pressure on the White House after the paper’s editor blogged about having felt “handcuffed” by Obama’s ground rules, the Obama administration released the transcript of the interview last Wednesday.
Iowa launched Obama to the presidency in 2008. His win in the Iowa Caucus propelled his campaign. Obama later won the state in the general election against John McCain by 9.5 points.
Four years later, Obama is essentially tied with Romney for the state’s important six electoral votes and the Register endorsement may tip the scales for many Iowans.
The endorsement caught most in the political world — including the Obama campaign — by surprise.
The Obama campaign’s Iowa communications director Erin Seidler on Saturday had confidently and prematurely tweeted it would be “hard to imagine” the Register endorsing Romney.
Four minutes after Seidler’s tweet, the Register published its endorsement of Romney.