The All-important Register Endorsement

by Marin Cogan | December 12, 2007

Who will the Des Moines Register endorse? Four years ago, when it slapped its seal of approval on John Edwards, he impressively surged. The paper's imprimatur lent him heft and helped ease concerns that Edwards might not have the stuff to be president. (TNR's last endorsement didn't work out quite so well.) Earlier this week, I heard a rumor that the paper was leaning towards endorsing Biden--a noble gesture that would do nothing to tip the outcome of the caucus. Well, almost nothing. If the paper declines to support Edwards, it will be perceived as an important rebuke.

(I noticed in this morning's Times that HRC has been aggressively working the Register. Apparently, she broke bread with David Yepsen last week so that she could give him the treatment. )

I can't blame the Des Moines Register for taking the caucuses so seriously. But I'm also a bit cynical about the way the paper plays things. Take this morning's edition. Its big front-page headline blares, "Last Debates Could Have Seismic Impact." It's a claim that they make with great humility, I'm sure, given that the paper itself is the sponsor of these debates. And instead of scheduling these debates for prime time, they have stuck them at 1 p.m., the middle of the day when they'll have the smallest live audience imaginable. That means caucus goers won't likely watch these "seismic" events, but will experience them as mediated through....the Des Moines Register.  As an editor, I can only watch this maneuvering with great admiration.

UPDATE: One added endorsement factor: The editorial leadership of the paper has turned over since it endorsed John Edwards. I'm told that Edwards can, in fact, discourse quite eloquently on the subject of the Register's masthead.

Also, I'm told that Register watchers focus on call backs--the candidates invited back to the paper for a second interview. Biden apparently was invited back for a second meeting. That may have been the source of the rumors of his impending endorsement.

--Frank Foer

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