If there’s such as a thing as a backhanded endorsement, the Des Moines Register gave a major one to Mitt Romney this weekend. After glossing over some of the justifiable concerns that conservatives have about Romney, the paper piled on the praise for Romneycare and gushed over the candidate’s willingness to compromise with Democrats:
While other Republican candidates are content to bash the president’s health reform law without offering meaningful reforms of their own, Romney has defended the principal goal of the Massachusetts health care legislation, which was to ensure that all residents there had access to health care. …
This ability to see the merits of tough issues from something other than a knee-jerk, ideological perspective suggests that Mitt Romney would be willing to bridge the political divide in Washington. Americans are desperate for the Republicans and Democrats to work together. His record of ignoring partisan labels to pass important legislation when he was governor of Massachusetts suggests he is capable of making that happen.
These aren’t exactly arguments that conservative caucus-goers will find persuasive. Romney’s Massachusetts health care reform is perpetually toxic with Republican voters, and they aren’t likely to be impressed by his “carefully nuanced position on abortion over the years,” either.
It’s no wonder Nate Silver found that Republicans endorsed by the Des Moines Register tend to do worse on average than predicted by the polls:
On average, across the eight races, the candidate receiving the endorsement of the Des Moines Register has outperformed the polls by a statistically insignificant 3-point margin. The four Republican candidates in the sample, meanwhile, have on average done slightly worse than polling would have projected, although the difference is nowhere close to being statistically significant.
The Register’s endorsement is better suited for the general election than for the Republican primaries. It isn’t likely to help Romney in the caucuses, and it may even drag him down a bit with conservative voters — though probably not enough to matter.