LAND O' LAKES, Fla. - For the first time in 40 years, Iowa's largest and most influential newspaper is backing a Republican for president.
The Des Moines Register editorial board endorsed Mitt Romney Saturday night over his rival Barack Obama. The paper endorsed Obama in 2008. Citing Romney's private sector experience and his ability to work across the aisle as governor, the paper decided him best to fix the nation's problems.
"Voters 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 paper concluded.
The paper praised Romney's private sector experience - both as an executive at a hedge fund and running the successful 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics - and commended his plan to encourage growth through lowering taxes, increasing energy production, expanding trade, and balancing the federal budget. Coupled with his term as a Republican governor of blue Massachusetts, where he worked with Democrats to plug budget deficits and pass health care reform, the paper said he was best primed to jump-start the economy.
But they warned him not to fall into partisan politics, something they said the president had.
"Romney should not squander an opportunity to build consensus in Washington by wasting time on issues that animate many in his party," the paper said, asking Romney not to reverse many civil rights decisions. "We must make it easier for immigrants to come here to live and work legally and stop making criminals of those who are living here lawfully, paying taxes and raising families. The federal government must continue to insist on clean air and water and encourage clean and renewable energy."
The paper had kind words for President Obama, crediting him with providing the stimulus at a time when the country teetered on the edge of a depression. But they ultimately decided another term wouldn't provide the boost needed.
"The president's best efforts to resuscitate the stumbling economy have fallen short. Nothing indicates it would change with a second term in the White House," the paper wrote.
Both candidates desperately sought the paper's endorsement - Romney met with the editorial board at a family farm in Van Meter on October 9. The president had an off the record chat with editors last week, before a public blog post scolding the White House forced them to allow it to be printed.
Romney's endorsement is the first for a Republican by the Register since Richard Nixon in 1972.