WASHINGTON — The most influential newspaper in the critical state of Iowa endorsed Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination, praising his “sobriety, wisdom and judgment.”
Unveiling its endorsement a little over two weeks before the first US Republican nominating contest gets under way in Iowa, The Des Moines Register’s editorial board said the former Massachusetts governor stood out as “the most qualified Republican candidate competing in the Iowa caucuses.”
The board, which backed Romney’s Republican rival John McCain in the 2008 presidential race, pointed to his rich resume in the private sector, as governor in heavily Democratic Massachusetts and in helping bring success to the 2002 winter Olympics in and around Salt Lake City, Utah.
Romney has since “matured as a candidate,” it said, adding that he “makes the best case” out of the field of Republican contenders to rebuild the nation’s battered economy.
Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who has whittled away at Romney’s longstanding lead in the race for the Republican Party crown, “is an undisciplined partisan who would alienate, not unite,” the board wrote.
And Representative Ron Paul’s libertarian and anti-war ideology “would lead to economic chaos and isolationism, neither of which this nation can afford.”
The newspaper’s board also urged voters to think twice about rivals’ attacks that Romney is a “flip-flopper” who changes his positions based on the political headwinds.
“Though Romney has tended to adapt some positions to different times and places, he is hardly unique,” the board added. “It should be possible for a politician to say, ‘I was wrong, and I have changed my mind.’”
A win in Iowa on January 3 will give one of the hopefuls a huge boost going into the next primaries in New Hampshire on January 10, which are swiftly followed by a vote in South Carolina on January 21. The Republican nominee will get to contest President Barack Obama in November’s general election.
The Des Moines Register’s endorsement came a day after Romney won the support of South Carolina’s Governor Nikki Haley as he struggles to win over the core conservative wing of the party and influential Tea Party members.
Gingrich won the backing of the New Hampshire Union Leader last month.