Mitt Romney earned the White House endorsement of battleground Iowa's biggest newspaper, the Des Moines Register, which cited the Republican's "fresh economic vision" for America.

It was a blow for President Barack Obama, whom the influential publication backed four years ago. The Romney endorsement was the paper's first of a Republican candidate since it supported Richard Nixon in 1972.

With just 10 days before Americans head to the polls on November 6, the presidential race is heading for a spectacular, neck-and-neck finale, and most experts and observers agree that the race will come down to which candidate can win over more undecided and independent voters in swing states like Iowa.

The Register's editorial board said it had a vigorous debate over the endorsement discussing who could best pull the economy out of the doldrums, create more jobs, balance the budget and forge compromises in Congress.

"When the question is framed in those terms, Mitt Romney emerges the stronger candidate," it said, citing the former Massachusetts governor's business record and his ability to govern as a Republican in a liberal state.

"Romney has made rebuilding the economy his No. 1 campaign priority -- and rightly so," it said.

In praising Romney's economic acumen, and his "faith in the private sector to fuel a more robust economic recovery," it also faulted what it views as the president's missteps.

Obama, it said, made "the right call" with his multi-billion-dollar government stimulus bill that put cash into the pockets of consumers and invested in infrastructure projects .

But "the president's best efforts to resuscitate the stumbling economy have fallen short," the paper said. "Nothing indicates it would change with a second term in the White House."

Voters, the paper said, "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 editorial board spoke with Obama by telephone earlier this week. The conversation was off the record, but after an article was published questioning why such a discussion would be private, the White House released the transcript.