I had posted on Twitter earlier tonight asking followers to predict whether the Des Moines Register’s editorial board would go with Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. The paper backed Obama 4 years ago. And it hasn’t picked a Republican for president since Richard Nixon in 1972. Perhaps, Watergate soured the experience. Republicans love to complain about the paper’s liberal bias over the years. Some Twitter followers responded to my post asking for their endorsement guess with tweets like “You’re kidding, right”, “Haha, predictions, good one”.
They must be surprised tonight. The Register went with Romney. It caps what has been a bizarre week for the paper and the president. Earlier this week, the paper published what was mostly a glowing account of an “off-the-record” conversation the paper’s top 2 decision makers, Editor Rick Green and Publisher Laura Hollingsworth, had with the president.
The president hadn’t sat down with the paper’s board for the traditional conversation that precedes the presidential endorsement. Romney did on a previous trip to Iowa. After that off the record talk with the president, Green talked loosely about what the president said. That brought out questions about what an “off the record” conversation means: Ethically, do you disclose the identity of a person with whom you have an off the record conversation? Do you disclose what the topics were during that conversation as long as your don’t disclose specifics?
Those questions aside, Green wrote a piece urging the president to allow the conversations to be considered “on the record” so the paper could share them with Iowans. The next day, the White House obliged.
Tonight, the Register broke with recent 40-year history and chose to endorse Romney. The endorsement gives Romney’s side reason to do something it rarely ever finds itself doing…praising the Des Moines Register. The Register also just put itself right in the middle of the Sunday morning national talk show circuit conversations. And after the back-and-forth a few months back where the paper announced conservative talk show host Steve Deace would become a Register columnist and then never did, it could win a few favors with Republicans in the state. There’s no question this endorsement decision would have received far less attention had the paper sided with Obama again.
It will be interesting to follow the reaction that follows. Here’s a quick sample of what Twitter offered around 7p.m. tonight.
Iowa Obama’s Communications Director Erin Seidler actually got out her thoughts about 4 mniutes before the endorsement went public. She tweeted this: @eeseidler “Considering today’s @DMRegister editorial on Akin, Mourdock, and Romney’s extreme position on womens health, hard to imagine DMR endorsement”
Following the 7pm announcement, Romney’s 2008 Iowa Communications Director Tim Albrecht (who is now Governor Terry Branstad communications director) tweeted this: @TimAlbrechtIA “My head just exploded. That deflating sound you hear is coming from a former Blockbuster store on Ingersoll. WOW.”
That former movie store, by the way, is Obama’s Des Moines headquarters. Obama’s team took it over after Romney’s team left earlier this year. Romney’s people used it for its Des Moines headquarters before the caucuses.
This was the first tweet from Romney’s campaign following the endorsement announcement: @MittRomney “We need Iowa to help get America back on track. I am honored to have the @DMRegister’s endorsement.”
This was the first tweet from Obama’s campaign: @BarackObama “Grabbing a pint with the President”: pic.twitter.com/H4oYnTSl
Obama Iowa campaign sent email regarding the Register’s endorsement:
Here is our statement. It can be attributed to the Obama campaign:
“It’s surprising that the Register would endorse Mitt Romney given that he wants to kill the wind energy tax credit so critical to Iowa’s economy, increase our deficit, and cut education funding important to creating jobs. His embrace of the GOP’s extreme wing throughout this campaign will certainly make it hard to work across aisle. Meanwhile, President Obama has a concrete, detailed plan for moving America forward, getting folks back to work and strengthening the middle class by making smart investments in energy, education and training, growing small businesses, promoting technology and innovation, and reducing the deficit in a bipartisan way.”