Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney got a thumbs up from the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Saturday.

Ahead of Tuesday's Ohio primary, the newspaper said the former Massachusetts governor is the only remaining candidate capable of appealing to a wide enough swath of voters to defeat President Obama in November.

"The GOP needs a nominee who can appeal to swing voters and disaffected Democrats, because neither party can rely on its hard-core enthusiasts to carry this key swing state," the endorsement said.

"None of Romney's GOP rivals seem capable of such engagement — or of appealing to a broad range of voters," it said. 

While an endorsement, the editorial expressed concern about Romney's freely changing stances on issues, a portion of the endorsement omitted by Romney's camp in an email.

"Consistency is certainly a problem for Romney," the endorsement said. "The one-time moderate has adjusted his positions on so many issues — including abortion and gay rights — that his core beliefs are a mystery," it said.

"In this campaign, he has tried so hard to prove his conservative bona fides that he has undercut one of his greatest selling points: the pragmatism that enabled him to get things done as a Republican governor in one of the nation's most Democratic and liberal states."

The endorsement linked Romney's lack of political experience — one term as governor, two statewide campaigns and an unsuccessful bid for the GOP presidential nomination four years ago — with his inability to personally connect with voters. 

"By the standards of most serious presidential contenders, his political resume is short: Perhaps that is why he sometimes appears so awkward in public, especially when talking about himself and, in particular, his personal wealth," the endorsement said. 

But the paper said it is Romney's business and private-sector experience — including his time as governor and as the executive with the Salt Lake City Olympics — that set him apart from the GOP field. 

"He has had to make tough choices, trade short-term pain for long-term gain," the paper said.

"A serious debate between Romney and Obama about the proper role and size of government would be healthy for a nation facing grave fiscal challenges."

Polls show Romney is closing the gap on front-runner Rick Santorum in Ohio, the highest profile of Super Tuesday's contests.

Romney has pulled to within the margin of error, according to a survey from Quinnipiac University. And a survey from conservative polling outlet Rasmussen shows even bigger gains for Romney.

In Ohio, a state every president has won since Abraham Lincoln, Romney fits the bill as a candidate the paper said could make changes in a hostile environment of Washington.

"The next president, regardless of party, will have to work in a Washington riven by partisan and ideological chasms," it said. 

"Romney ought not to shy from his proven ability to build bridges."

The paper went on to criticize the three other candidates. 

Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, took a hit on his promises to focus on the economy — especially manufacturing — while, instead, making social issues a priority.

"Religious conservatives may cheer, but he's out of step with moderate swing voters," the paper said.

The Ohio paper said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich "seems more grandiose than practical, and the hostility of so many former colleagues is telling."

Texas Rep. Ron Paul "is admirable for his consistency" but his "libertarian, isolationist worldview is a poor fit to the nation's needs."