LAND O’ LAKES, Fla. -- The Des Moines Register endorsed Mitt Romney on Saturday night, breaking a decades-long streak of backing Democrats for president in a state that launched President Obama's 2008 election.
The paper, the largest in Iowa, wrote that the top priorities in the election must be reviving the economy, spurring job growth and moving toward a balanced budget and reducing the deficit.
“Which candidate could forge the compromises in Congress to achieve these goals? When the question is framed in those terms, Mitt Romney emerges the stronger candidate,” the paper wrote, citing Romney’s achievements as Massachusetts governor, a business leader and turning around the 2002 Olympics. “Romney has made rebuilding the economy his No. 1 campaign priority — and rightly so.”
Four years ago, the Iowa caucuses launched Obama’s presidential bid, and he handily won the state in the general election. The Register endorsed him, impressed with his background, his calls for Americans to come together and his positions on the economic crises that unfolded in the final months of the campaign.
This time around, the paper offers a sober assessment of his tenure, and his potential.
“The president’s best efforts to resuscitate the stumbling economy have fallen short. Nothing indicates it would change with a second term in the White House,” the paper wrote.
It’s unclear how much newspaper endorsements matter to voters, given that many gravitate toward media outlets that align with their political views. But the endorsement is notable because of the Register’s long history of supporting Democrats – the last Republican they endorsed was President Nixon in 1972.
And it may offer a window into the mood of heartland voters in a state that is a crucial battleground. Romney has been trying to court past Obama supporters there by focusing on the nation’s debt, a theme that resonates among many in a frugal state that has the lowest per capita credit card debt in the nation.
Obama gave a nod to the newspaper’s importance when, after speaking with the editorial board, he had a separate conversation two weeks later with the paper’s editor and publisher.
“I want your endorsement. You’ll feel better when you give it,” he concluded in his phone conversation with them.
Romney tweeted his appreciation for the paper's endorsement. "We need Iowa to help get America back on track. I am honored to have the @DMRegister’s endorsement," he wrote.
The news of the endorsement broke Saturday while Romney was speaking to 15,000 supporters at a rally on a high school football field here, capping a three-event day stumping in Florida.
“America’s going to win,” Romney said. “We’re going to make the change in November that will bring the real change that we need.”