The Des Moines Register's editorial board is endorsing Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton ahead of the state's Jan. 3 presidential caucuses, contending they top the field in competence and readiness to lead in a time of dissension at home and distrust and peril abroad.

Weighing in on a tight Democratic race, the statewide paper's board said in its endorsement Saturday night that Democratic challenger Barack Obama "inspired our imaginations. But it was Clinton who inspired our confidence."

McCain, an opponent of ethanol and crop subsidies important to Iowa, has not mounted a serious challenge in the state's close GOP contest, pinning his hopes on New Hampshire's Jan. 8 leadoff primary and elsewhere. But the board cited his deep knowledge of national-security and foreign-policy issues, and his honesty.

"The force of John McCain's moral authority could go a long way toward restoring Americans' trust in government and inspiring new generations to believe in the goodness and greatness of America," the board wrote on the paper's Web site.

The editorial board of The Boston Globe, closely watched in the New Hampshire campaign, came out in favor of Obama and McCain in its endorsements Saturday.

The Globe's board said Obama fulfills America's need for "a president with an intuitive sense of the wider world," and said McCain "has done more than his share to transcend partisanship and promote an honest discussion of the problems facing the United States."

It said Obama's diverse and international life experience helped the Illinois senator develop a unique perspective of the world.

"The most sobering challenges that face this country — terrorism, climate change, disease pandemics — are global," the board said in early excerpts of its endorsement. "America needs a president with an intuitive sense of the wider world, with all its perils and opportunities. Barack Obama has this understanding at his core."

McCain was praised by both newspapers as a straight talker who could help a polarized nation. The Globe's board said the Arizona senator could be an antidote to the "toxic political approach" of the last two presidential elections. The Globe also endorsed McCain before the New Hampshire primary in 2000.

The Register endorsed Democrat John Edwards in 2004 and, in the 2000 GOP race, backed George W. Bush over McCain.

"He doesn't parse words," The Register's board said Saturday of McCain. "And on tough calls, he usually lands on the side of goodness — of compassion for illegal immigrants, of concern for the environment for future generations."

The board criticized Edwards this time, saying the positive campaign he ran in 2004 has seldom been seen. "His harsh anti-corporate rhetoric would make it difficult to work with the business community to forge change," it said.

Clinton has been tested by rough politics and personal trials, the paper said, and has responded with strength and resilience. "We believe as president she'll do what she's always done in her life: Throw herself into the job and work hard. We believe Hillary Rodham Clinton can do great things for our country."