Clinton, Rubio score key Iowa paper's endorsement ahead of caucuses

Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Marco Rubio each won a key endorsement Saturday from the Des Moines Register newspaper, eight days before the state holds its first-in-the nation voting caucus for president.

"If there’s one thing Democrats and Republicans agree on this year, it’s the fact that the next president will face enormous challenges," the paper's editorial board said in endorsing the Democratic front-runner and Florida GOP senator.

The paper, Iowa's biggest daily, said the next president must work with Congress in confronting a host of issues including immigration, health care, gun control and the growing national security threat.

And he or she must "on the world stage" work with foreign leaders in stopping the Islamic State and other terrorists, North Korea and Iran's nuclear threat and the Russian incursions in Ukraine.

The paper said Clinton was "not a perfect candidate" but that no other can "match the depth or breadth of her knowledge and experience."

Board members said Republicans have the opportunity to define their party’s future in this election by choosing “anger, pessimism and fear.” Or it could be the party in which Rubio “the son of an immigrant bartender and maid could become president,” they said.

“Rubio has the potential to chart a new direction for the party, and perhaps the nation, with his message of restoring the American dream. We endorse him because he represents his party’s best hope,” the board said in an apparent rejection of the political rhetoric of front-running Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who are in a close race to win the Iowa GOP caucus.

Neither Cruz nor Trump sought the endorsement.

The Clinton endorsement comes ahead of the Feb. 1 caucus in which Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders trails Clinton 42-to-48, according to the RealClearPolitics poll average.

The board argued Sanders was "an honorable and formidable campaigner" but said even Sanders' acknowledges that essentially all of his reform plans have no chance of being approved by a GOP-heavy Congress.

The editorial board acknowledged concerns about how Clinton handled “the furor over her private email server" and argued that she has yet to realize that "when she makes a mistake, she should just say so."

The Democratic and Republican candidates met twice with the board in question-and-answer sessions.

“It’s been a long time since the Republican Party has had an agenda that talks to students,” the board said after Rubio’s meetings.

While calling Rubio “whip smart,” the board also suggested that he and some of his plans, including one to replace ObamaCare, remain a work in progress.

Trump and others, the board suggested, have responded to the public’s anger and frustration with Washington by trying to demonize government and “resorting to the cheap demagoguery.”