The Des Moines Register endorses Mitt Romney

For the first time in 40 years, the Des Moines Register has endorsed a Republican for President, becoming one of the most significant newspapers to switch from Obama in 2008 to Romney in 2012.  (The Register helpfully adds a list of every presidential candidate they have endorsed since 1912, and whether they went on to win or lose the election.)

Iowa is very hotly contested in the closing days of the election, with six electoral votes up for grabs.  Obama pushed hard to get the Register’s endorsement, but his weird initial demand to keep his final phone interview with the editorial board off the record seems to have irked them, and rightly so.  Their endorsement of Romney does not mention the incident, instead following much the same pattern as the other Obama 2008 papers that have switched to Romney: praise for Romney’s “strong record of achievement in both the private and the public sectors,” the managerial skills he demonstrated when rescuing the 2002 Winter Olympics, and his skill at reaching across the aisle to get things done.  (Amusingly, they credit Obama with “reaching out to Republicans” early in his administration, having apparently forgotten all the “I won” and “go to the back of the bus” stuff.)

This praise for Romney is coupled with disappointment at Obama’s poor performance and general failure to live up to his campaign promises from 2008: “Barack Obama rocketed to the presidency from relative obscurity with a theme of hope and change. A different reality has marked his presidency. 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 Des Moines Register notes that its decision to endorse Romney did not come easily:

American voters are deeply divided about this race. The Register???s editorial board, as it should, had a vigorous debate over this endorsement. Our discussion repeatedly circled back to the nation???s single most important challenge: pulling the economy out of the doldrums, getting more Americans back in the workforce in meaningful jobs with promising futures, and getting the federal government on a track to balance the budget in a bipartisan manner that the country demands.

Which candidate could forge the compromises in Congress to achieve these goals? When the question is framed in those terms, Mitt Romney emerges the stronger candidate.

That’s an interesting echo of the most frustrating dynamic in this race for conservatives; how can this thing be close?  How can anyone seriously consider Obama, for even a moment, as the better choice for “pulling the economy out of the doldrums, getting more Americans back in the workforce in meaningful jobs with promising futures, and getting the federal government on a track to balance the budget?”  History tends to forget the arguments of a losing candidate, so if Romney wins, hindsight will come to view it as a slam-dunk no-brainer, particularly if his final margin of victory is larger than current polling suggests.  Let future historians consider the Des Moines Register’s endorsement as evidence that Obama had no small amount of success selling his pathetic excuses and ridiculous distractions.

Team Obama took the loss of the Register’s endorsement with their usual grace and good manners, as deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter took to the Sunday-show circuit to question the editors’ grip on reality, as related by The Hill: “It was a little surprising to read that editorial, because it didn’t seem to be based at all in reality, not just in the president’s record, but in Mitt Romney’s record.  It says that he’d reach across the aisle, which he’d do the exact opposite. It’s the exact opposite of what he did in Massachusetts.”

Who are you going to believe: newspaper editors, the historical archives, and today’s headlines about Obama’s bitterly partisan executive-order style, or the woman who lied through her teeth about setting up a conference call to roll out the disgusting “Mitt Romney gave my wife cancer” political hit?

It’s always an open question how much newspaper endorsements matter, and naturally liberals are asking that question very enthusiastically at the moment, as a long list of 2008 Obama endorsers flip to Romney.  Sometimes editorial boards may influence the opinions of wavering voters; other times, they reflect the emerging consensus among their readers.  It’s certainly newsworthy when a battleground-state paper which has staunchly supported Democrats since 1972 decides to come out for Mitt Romney.