Citing the candidate's "sobriety, wisdom and judgement" the editorial board of The Des Moines Register, Iowa's largest and most influential newspaper, announced Saturday night that Mitt Romney would receive their GOP caucus endorsement.
The largest newspaper in the key early caucus state commended Romney's intelligence combined with a willingness to admit when he has been wrong.
"Romney disagrees with Democrats on most issues, but he offers smart and well-reasoned alternatives rather than simply proposing to swing a wrecking ball in Washington," wrote the Register editorial board.
In 2008, the newspaper endorsed John McCain who finished tied for a distant third in Iowa, but would go on to secure the GOP nomination.
"Mitt Romney is making his second bid for Iowans’ support after an unsuccessful run in 2008. We did not endorse him then, but this is a different field, and he has matured as a candidate. Rebuilding the economy is the nation’s top priority, and Romney makes the best case among the Republicans that he could do that."
While Evangelical Christians make up approximately 60 percent of voters in Iowa’s GOP caucus, the Register editorial board did not shy away from scolding Romney's rivals who "have pandered to extremes with attacks on the courts and sermons on Christian values." The newspaper praised the former Massachusetts governor for refraining from reckless rhetoric and moralizing.
The endorsement may come as a surprise considering that Romney has received criticism from some Iowa conservatives for putting less resources into campaigning in the hawk-eye state when compared to Romney's efforts in Nevada and New Hampshire.
Romney ranks third in current polls of likely Iowa GOP caucus goers, behind Newt Gingrich followed by Ron Paul. The paper said of Romney's top competitors: "Newt Gingrich is an undisciplined partisan who would alienate, not unite, if he reverts to mean-spirited attacks on display as House speaker. Ron Paul’s libertarian ideology would lead to economic chaos and isolationism, neither of which this nation can afford."
Of the "flip-flopper" label frequently attached to Romney, the newspaper writes that Romney has evolved from a one-time independent to a moderate Republican in a liberal state to a proud conservative today.
"Though Romney has tended to adapt some positions to different times and places, he is hardly unique. It should be possible for a politician to say, 'I was wrong, and I have changed my mind.'"
The endorsement comes just 17 days before Iowans will gather on January 3 to vote on a Republican nominee. Romney invested heavily in Iowa four years ago, only to finish second. AP reports that his advisers have kept in touch with supporters of his 2008 campaign.