Mitt Romney scored the endorsement of the Des Moines Register on Saturday night, with Iowa’s largest newspaper casting the Republican as the more likely candidate to break the current deadlock in Washington.
The Register, which had backed Obama in 2008 and not endorsed a GOP nominee in 40 years, said that Romney was more likely than President Obama to forge bipartisan compromises on the economy and federal deficits.
The paper’s editorial board asserted that Obama had reached across the aisle early in his term, but that partisanship in Washington had “hardened” after those efforts fell short.
“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 paper said.
“Voters should 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.”
The endorsement seems likely to give a jolt to Romney’s efforts to capture Iowa’s six electoral votes. Recent polling has shown a tight race in the state, with Obama holding a slight edge in several recent polls.
Iowa has voted Democratic in five of the previous six presidential elections, with President George W. Bush’s narrow victory over Sen. John Kerry in 2004 being the sole GOP victory in the last 24 years. The state also helped propel Obama to the White House four years ago, after the then-Illinois senator scored a victory in the Iowa caucuses in January, 2008.
The Register endorsement comes just days after the paper chided Obama for speaking with them about a potential endorsement off the record.
Obama’s campaign later released a transcript of the president’s conversation with the paper, in which he says he believes a debt deal can get done within the first six months of next year and that immigration reform is also possible in 2013.
In its endorsement, the Register says that Romney’s private-sector experience could help an economy that is still in the doldrums, despite Obama’s best efforts.
The paper also says that Obama was right to push for stimulus shortly after taking over, and that it sees little difference in the two candidates’ prescriptions for the economy in the short-term.
But the editorial board added that Romney’s broader faith in the private sector would spark badly needed confidence from both consumers and industry.
Still, the endorsement did not come without some caution for Romney, who the Register also endorsed for the GOP nomination.
The paper pleaded with Romney, who worked with Democrats as Massachusetts governor, not to “squander an opportunity to build consensus in Washington by wasting time on issues that animate many in his party.”
Those issues, the paper said, include issues like immigration, gay rights and the environment.
“Romney had to tack to the right during the primary season,” the Register said.
“Since then, he has recalibrated his campaign to focus on his concern for the middle class, and that is believable if the real Mitt Romney is the one on display as governor of Massachusetts who passed a health care reform plan that became the model for the one passed by Congress.”