The Washington Examiner, an influential newspaper with a conservative editorial board, announced Wednesday that it will endorse Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential primary -- declaring he is the "only Republican" who can beat President Obama.
The endorsement comes as Romney struggles to shore up the base, while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich surges ahead of him in the polls.
The Examiner, in its endorsement, cautioned that the same polls showing Gingrich in the lead among Republicans also show him trailing Obama significantly in a general election. The editorial board argued that Romney is the better candidate, to campaign against Obama and to hold the office he currently occupies.
"The Washington Examiner believes Romney can defeat Obama, but Gingrich cannot," the newspaper said in its endorsement. "And Romney the businessman is far better suited to the nation's highest office -- by temperament, experience, and cast of mind -- than Gingrich the consummate Washington insider. By fits and starts over the years, Romney has become the reliable conservative that America so badly needs at this crucial moment in her history."
The endorsement from the conservative-leaning newspaper comes less than three weeks before the Iowa caucuses.
"We're obviously not The New York Times, but that's just the point. We're a conservative newspaper offering our advice to Republicans, not a liberal newspaper presuming to tell conservatives how to vote. We're hoping that counts for something to the millions who follow us online," Examiner editor Stephen G. Smith told Fox News.
The newspaper argued that Gingrich's record is just too checkered and his persona too volatile to withstand attacks in a general election.
"Combined with his rhetorical unpredictability and short-fuse temperament -- he is like an exploding cigar, waiting to be lit -- Gingrich's insider status makes him a symbol of congressional back-scratching and an easy target for Obama's political hit squads," the newspaper said.
The Examiner said Romney is not the "perfect conservative" either, questioning his reliability on hot-button issues like abortion and taxes and gun control. But the newspaper stressed Romney's experience in the private sector and declared "he is perfect enough."
Gingrich last month picked up his own notable newspaper endorsement, from the New Hampshire Union Leader.