(DES MOINES, Iowa) — The Des Moines Register endorsed Mitt Romney Saturday night, writing that his qualities of “sobriety, wisdom and judgment” make him “stand out as the most qualified Republican candidate competing in the Iowa caucuses.”
The Register is the largest newspaper in the state and in a lengthy editorial, it praised Romney as “pointedly refrain(ing) from reckless rhetoric and moralizing” while his opponents have “pandered to extremes with attacks on the courts and sermons on Christian values.”
In 2008, the paper endorsed John McCain over Mitt Romney and the editors write Romney “has matured as a candidate.”
“Rebuilding the economy is the nation’s top priority, and Romney makes the best case among the Republicans that he could do that,” the editorial reads.
The editorial has some strong words for Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, who came in first and second in their Iowa poll just two weeks ago.
“He stands out especially among candidates now in the top tier: Newt Gingrich is an undisciplined partisan who would alienate, not unite, if he reverts to mean-spirited attacks on display as House speaker. Ron Paul’s libertarian ideology would lead to economic chaos and isolationism, neither of which this nation can afford,” the paper wrote in an editorial that appeared in Sunday’s paper.
The paper doesn’t mention his other GOP rivals, but writes that Romney “offers smart and well-reasoned alternatives rather than simply proposing to swing a wrecking ball in Washington,” a familiar Rick Perry refrain that he often repeats on the campaign trail.
Although the paper has the largest circulation in the state and this will undoubtedly raise expectations, it is unclear how influential the endorsement will be with Republicans here, since many see the editorial page as having a liberal bent.
Craig Robinson, the former political director of the Iowa Republican Party who now runs TheIowaRepublican.com says it’s “an important endorsement for Romney.”
The Sioux City Journal also endorsed Romney earlier this month.
Throughout the campaign, Romney has chosen to focus more on New Hampshire, where the first primary votes are cast, as opposed to Iowa, where in just over two weeks caucus-goers will begin the voting process. Yet, New Hampshire’s largest paper, the Union Leader endorsed Gingrich in November. Romney has only made six visits to Iowa.
The Register says the editorial board met with all the Republican candidates who campaigned in the state, noting that they extended an invitation to Jon Huntsman, who did not respond to their request. Last week, the editorial board met and worked towards a decision.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
Dan Berman, CNN
Jennifer Rizzo, CNN
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Deirdre Walsh and Eugene Scott, CNN