Romney wins surprise endorsement from Iowa’s Des Moines Register

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Iowa’s Des Moines Register newspaper endorsed Mitt Romney on Saturday, marking the first time the paper has endorsed a Republican for president in 40 years.

“Both President Barack Obama and Governor Romney are superbly qualified … [but] Mitt Romney emerges the stronger candidate,” the paper announced.

An Iowa victory would give Romney seven electoral votes. Recent polls show a close race in the state.

The Register’s editor had generously praised Obama after he bid for the paper’s endorsement during a 30-minute interview on Oct. 23.

“The conference call [with Obama] lasted nearly 30 minutes and was an incredibly informative exchange of questions, answers and an insightful glimpse into the president’s vision for a second term,” editor Rick Green wrote. “What the President shared with us this morning — and the manner, depth and quality of his presentation – would [be] well-received by not only his base, but also undecideds.”

The Obama campaign initially demanded that the paper not release the transcript of the president’s off-the-record conversation with the paper’s editors, but relented amid backlash from both the editors and the public. (RELATED: Obama campaign wants conversations with Iowa paper to be kept secret)

The paper’s publisher also attended the interview with Obama, and may have helped swing the endorsement to Romney.

“American voters are deeply divided about this race [and] the Register’s editorial board, as it should, had a vigorous debate over this endorsement,” the Oct. 27 endorsement said.

Romney’s focus on the economy seemed to have won the endorsement.

“Our discussion repeatedly circled back to the nation’s single most important challenge: pulling the economy out of the doldrums,” said the editorial endorsement. “Romney has made rebuilding the economy his No. 1 campaign priority — and rightly so.”

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