Powerful Des Moines Register Endorses Romney for GOP Caucus

Newspaper endorsements don’t have the impact they used to — and some never had the impact that journalists and editorial writers claimed — but the Des Moines Register remains a highly respected newspaper both in terms of its reporting, thoughtfulness, and editorial writing. It’s endorsement does carry some weight — and it has just endorsed Mitt Romney for the GOP caucus.

What is most interesting: it does not give its endorsement to Romney while taking a lot of space to decimate his closest rival in the polls, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Rather, it makes an affirmative case that Romney is the smartest choice to be the 2012 Republican nominee and a winning one for the GOP. Here are a few highlights from it:

Sobriety, wisdom and judgment.

Those are qualities Mitt Romney said he looks for in a leader. Those are qualities Romney himself has demonstrated in his career in business, public service and government. Those qualities help the former Massachusetts governor stand out as the most qualified Republican candidate competing in the Iowa caucuses.

Sobriety: While other candidates have pandered to extremes with attacks on the courts and sermons on Christian values, Romney has pointedly refrained from reckless rhetoric and moralizing. He may be accused of being too cautious, but choosing words carefully is a skill essential for anyone who could be sitting in the White House and reacting to world events.

Wisdom: Romney obviously is very smart. He graduated as valedictorian at Brigham Young University and finished in the top 5 percent in his MBA class at Harvard, where he also earned a law degree. Romney also exhibits the wisdom of a man who listened and learned from his father and his mother, from his church and from his own trials and errors in life. He does not lack self confidence, but he is not afraid to admit when he has been wrong.

Judgment: Romney disagrees with Democrats on most issues, but he offers smart and well-reasoned alternatives rather than simply proposing to swing a wrecking ball in Washington. He is a serious student of public policy who examines the data before making a decision. His detailed policy paper on the economy contains 87 pages of carefully crafted positions on taxes, energy, trade and regulatory policy, complete with 127 footnotes.

The editorial notes that this is Romney’s second bid in Iowa and he has “matured” as a candidate. It notes his history in business and then takes one swipe at Gingrich:

…He stands out especially among candidates now in the top tier: Newt Gingrich is an undisciplined partisan who would alienate, not unite, if he reverts to mean-spirited attacks on display as House speaker. Ron Paul’s libertarian ideology would lead to economic chaos and isolationism, neither of which this nation can afford.

Romney is accused of being a “flip-flopper.” He has evolved from one-time independent to moderate Republican in liberal Massachusetts to proud conservative today. He does not deny changing his position on some issues, but he will say he has made mistakes and has learned from them. Though Romney has tended to adapt some positions to different times and places, he is hardly unique. It should be possible for a politician to say, “I was wrong, and I have changed my mind.”

But more subtle distinctions apply to Romney on some major issues where he has been accused of flipping or flopping. He helped create health-care reform in Massachusetts that is strikingly similar to the much-derided “Obamacare,” for example. Yet Romney argues reasonably, though not entirely persuasively, that while all states should be free to experiment with their own reforms, it is wrong for the federal government to force a one-size-fits-all plan on the entire nation.

Romney’s tendency to carefully pick his way through the political minefields is illustrated by his carefully nuanced position on abortion over the years…….

And then they make the argument that I’ve made and others have made about Romney: that he would be a Republican who could work with Democrats and who’d be appealing to many independents, moderates, and non-liberal-wing Democrats who would not be interested in a candidate who talks like he wants to be a polarizing, demonizing talk show host.

This ability to see the merits of tough issues from something other than a knee-jerk, ideological perspective suggests that Mitt Romney would be willing to bridge the political divide in Washington. Americans are desperate for the Republicans and Democrats to work together. His record of ignoring partisan labels to pass important legislation when he was governor of Massachusetts suggests he is capable to making that happen.

For those reasons, Mitt Romney deserves the support of his party in the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. If he is the GOP nominee, the nation would have a clear choice in November 2012.

Indeed: to many independent voters the operative word in “knee jerk” is the second word.

This endorsement is unlikely to help Gingrich, who had been on the ascent and is now seeing his polling numbers tumble amid highly public displays of thumbs down from many prominent conservatives — and some Republicans who worked with him and knew him in Congress. It’ll likely bolster Romney or Paul.

SOME ADDITIONAL REACTION:
Washington Wire:

The paper says that throughout the campaign, Mr. Romney has stood out for his even temper and sobriety. “While other candidates have pandered to extremes with attacks on the courts and sermons on Christian values, Romney has pointedly refrained from reckless rhetoric and moralizing,” the endorsement said. The plug takes swipes at only two of Mr. Romney’s rivals, panning Newt Gingrich as “an undisciplined partisan” and arguing that Ron Paul’s “libertarian ideology would lead to economic chaos and isolationism.”

The paper does dig into Mr. Romney’s reputation as a flip-flopper, but concludes that he “at least appreciates both sides of hard questions.”

Mr. Romney has now won the backing of the largest paper in Iowa, where he lags Mr. Gingrich in the polls, while Mr. Gingrich has won the backing of the largest paper in New Hampshire, where Mr. Romney leads in the polls.

The Huffington Post:

The Des Moines Register, Iowa’s biggest and most influential newspaper, announced that it would endorse Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee for president. The decision will likely provide a significant boost to Romney ahead of the state’s first-in-the-nation GOP caucus, which takes place on January 3.

The endorsement, which will appear in print on Sunday, makes the case that Romney “stands out” among the Republican field in important areas:

CNN’s Political Ticker:

The editorial is the second major endorsement for Romney in two days, coming on the heels of Friday’s nod from South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki Haley. South Carolina’s primary, set for January 21, is the first presidential contest in the South and the third overall in the early voting season.

In early December, Romney scored another endorsement from Iowa’s Sioux City Journal, which described the candidate as “best prepared through experience, skills and qualities to lead the country.”

Romney has taken heat all year for running what many political observers call a lackluster effort in Iowa. He has campaigned in the state far less than Gingrich, Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry. He opened up his first office in Iowa just last month.

His campaign chose not to secure a spot in the non-binding but closely watched Ames Straw Poll in August, which measures a campaign’s organizational strength in the state.

Romney won the straw poll during his first presidential bid in 2007, but fell short of winning the caucuses five months later

National Review Online:

Last cycle, the Register endorsed John McCain, not the future caucus winner, Mike Huckabee.

The Caucus:

The endorsement could be a serious hindrance to Newt Gingrich, whose late surge in the polls has appeared to wane a bit in recent days, raising the possibility of a disappointing result in the first-in-the-nation voting.

It also is a blow to Representative Ron Paul of Texas, who has been climbing in the polls and has built a much stronger organization in Iowa than he had in his last bid for the presidency four years ago.

“Newt Gingrich is an undisciplined partisan who would alienate, not unite, if he reverts to mean-spirited attacks on display as House speaker,” the paper said. “Ron Paul’s libertarian ideology would lead to economic chaos and isolationism, neither of which this nation can afford.”

The paper acknowledged one of the chief criticisms against Mr. Romney — that he has been too willing to change his positions for political gain. But it said it was largely satisfied that the criticism was overstated.

“Though Romney has tended to adapt some positions to different times and places, he is hardly unique,” the paper said. “Romney at least appreciates both sides of hard questions.”

--Chris Cillizza:

It’s not entirely clear that the Register endorsement — particularly in a Republican primary has a large amount of influence. In 2008, the paper endorsed Arizona Sen. John McCain who finished well back of the leaders.

But, Romney winning the endorsement could provide him a bit of a boost in the final two weeks before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, which kick off the presidential nomination fight.

Unlike 2008, when Romney spent $10 million and untold hours campaigning in the state, he has been far more hands-off in the Hawkeye State this time around. Until the last few weeks, Romney had not run any television ads in the state and had campaigned there only sparingly.

--Los Angeles Times:

The endorsement bolsters the idea that the GOP nomination has turned into a two-man race between Romney and Gingrich. Gingrich won the endorsement of the Union Leader in New Hampshire, which holds its primaries after Iowa has its first in the nation caucuses on Jan. 3.

         

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