With less than a week before the Alabama primary, Mitt Romney has won the endorsement of the Birmingham News, the state's largest newspaper. The editors write:
Pundits can complain (and have) all they want about the weakness of the field of Republican candidates for president, of gaffes galore and an overabundance of baggage, of the party's lurch further right in response to the tea-party's popularity.
But there's really no point. Short of a brokered convention, either Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum will be the GOP presidential standard bearer in the November election against Democratic President Barack Obama.
The job of voters in Alabama's Republican primary on March 13 is simple: They should vote for whom they believe is the strongest candidate -- the man they believe can defeat Obama.
In our view, that man is Mitt Romney.
The paper criticizes each of Romney's rivals. Rick Santorum gets dinged for steering the primary season's discussion into "social issues." Newt Gingrich is cited for "impulsiveness and recklessness in his political and personal lives." The editors declare Ron Paul impossible to take "seriously" -- especially for his opposition to providing "federal aid to tornado victims."
The editors of the paper praise Romney for being an "able fundraiser" and having a well-organized campaign, all of which, to their minds, "reflect[s] well on his competency." They go on to cite "Romney's rescue of the scandal-ridden 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City," and his ability to work "with an overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature to adopt sweeping education reforms." Naturally, they also mention his chief achievement as governor -- his health care reform initiative -- but note that it hasn't always been a comfortable topic on the 2012 campaign trail, and go on to include his hesitancy to fully embrace "RomneyCare" as an example of Romney's "shape-shifting."
Besides that, the paragraph that the Romney campaign will likely edit when it disseminates this endorsement to reporters is this one:
Cut through the clatter of scorched-earth attack ads (mainly from shameless super-PACs), candidates' charges and countercharges and Romney's unfortunate tendency to put his foot in his mouth at times, and here's what you will find: Romney is an extremely successful businessman and was a very competent governor who accomplished much of his agenda by working across party lines.
The Alabama primary is scheduled for March 13. Its 50 delegates will be awarded proportionally based upon the statewide vote and by congressional district.
Read the newspaper's full endorsement here.
UPDATE: 11:45 a.m. -- Called it! The Romney campaign pushed out the Birmingham News's endorsement, and made the usual round of strategic omissions. The entire paragraph noted above ("Cut through the clatter...") has been struck from the release, as well as any mention of "RomneyCare," "shape-shifting," and this assessment from the editors: "So, it's not unfair to wonder who the real Romney is."
Naturally, one shouldn't expect the Romney campaign to pass around vaguely discouraging words that run in these endorsements. But the Romney team's strategic editing hasn't always sat well with the people who've penned these endorsements. And the reasoning that the campaign has provided for doing so -- it argues that copyright laws preclude it from disseminating these endorsements in their entirety -- is generically seen as a dodge by experts on such matters.