Campaigns Duel Over Register Endorsement

National Journal

When The Des Moines Register endorsed Mitt Romney this weekend—the first time in 40 years that it backed a Republican—it got both campaigns talking.

Obama Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter downplayed the significance of The Register’s endorsement saying on ABC’s This Week that it was “surprising” to read the editorial and that “it didn’t seem to be based at all in reality.” 

(SEE MORE: Newspaper Endorsements in Swing States)

She pointed to other newspaper endorsements from the Miami Herald, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and The New York Times, all of which backed Obama.

But, appearing on the same program, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, said the paper’s lost faith in Obama—it endorsed him in 2008—is indicative of the mood in the country.

“Here's a newspaper that has not endorsed a Republican in 40 years. And … they were for Obama four years ago. They've switched,” he said.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation, said the Register endorsement is a significant milestone. “In a close race, the Register is very well regarded,” he said. “That aspect of it makes it a big story… We view Iowa as a tossup.”

The paper’s backing comes as both Obama and Romney are fighting to pull ahead in Iowa, one of a handful of battleground states. The paper hailed Romney’s economic vision in its decision to back him, the first time a Republican has won the endorsement since Richard Nixon in 1972.

"Barack Obama rocketed to the presidency from relative obscurity with a theme of hope and change,” the paper said. “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.”

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